Home / Mint-lounge / Features /  The story behind #TanmayRoasted

‘Roast wale din yaad aa gaye, by god,’ Tanmay Bhat tweeted. This was the first of a series of tweets that the stand-up artiste who co-started the popular comedy group All India Bakchod (AIB) posted ever since his latest Snapchat video titled Sachin V/s Lata Civil War turned controversial. For a good part of Monday, TV news channels have made this the only running story on their screens, using even the usual news ticker at the bottom to run the hashtag #TanmayRoasted. Bhat has not been involved in a controversy of this scale since an FIR was filed against him and 13 others including Bollywood actors Ranvir Singh and Arjun Kapoor who were also a part of AIB Knockout Roast last year.

This time around, Bhat used the face swap feature on the now-popular photo and video sharing social app, to create a make-believe conversation between cricketer Sachin Tendulkar and playback singer Lata Mangeshkar. Assuming Tendulkar’s face and voice, Bhat’s Tendulkar script is passive-aggressive, bursting into Marathi expletives in between. What drives his rant is his belief that current Indian test cricket captain Virat Kohli is a better cricketer.

“A snapstory is going to be on the news tonight. Congrats everyone," Bhat tweeted on Sunday evening when the controversy started to heat up on social media. This one tweet itself has been liked over 1000 times, and retweeted 395 times.

A popular news channel subsequently ran its first prime-time debate with the title “Did Tanmay Go Too Far This Time?"

Did he indeed?

Bhat’s comments about Mangeshkar voiced through a Tendulkar-face include: “Your (Mangeshkar) face looks like someone has kept you in water for eight days," and “Just look at you. Jon Snow also died, so you (Mangeshkar) should also die."

For the past four or so months, he has been posting—also on Facebook—Snapchat videos, sometimes using the platform’s comical face-recognition filters. In these, he is found singing popular songs, with the self-derisive disclaimers like: “This is me singing Drake songs jiska lyrics mujhe samajh nahi aata"; “Something tells me I’m not doing these Kapoor and Sons songs correctly..."

Neither Bhat nor AIB have been much in the limelight since the much-anticipated first season of their TV program On Air With AIB ended with a lukewarm response. However, a week ago, Bhat released a spontaneous monologue on feminism that he recorded on his cell-phone while in commute. With over 212,000 views, the video went viral and was widely shared and written about.

After the Tendulkar-Mangeshkar Snapchat though, Bhat has become hot topic for not just viewers on social media, but also the Mumbai Police, as well as three political parties—Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, the Nationalist Congress Party (Womens’ Wing), and the Bharatiya Janata Party. The parties have demanded that action be taken against him. Bollywood actors including Celina Jaitley and Riteish Deshmukh expressed their shock too, saying the video “is not cool and neither is it funny," and that they were “not amused".

One of the first to be featured at Mumbai’s Comedy Store’s Local Heroes, which had an all-Indian line up, Tanmay Bhat co-founded AIB with fellow comedian Gursimran Khamba. The AIB narrative started in early 2012 with comedy podcasts, and later as the rest of today’s AIB core team joined in (Rohan Joshi and Ashish Shakya), AIB started to perform at sold-out live stand-up shows. Their Royal Turds series— a spoof of Bollywood awards shows —also took off.

Mostly viewed from their YouTube channel, Bhat’s—and AIB’s—humour has often been laced with a laid-back cynicism that translates into humorous (and often expletive-filled) comment on social, cultural and political realities.

AIB also began inviting other comedians and popular Bollywood actors such as Kalki Koechlin and Irrfan Khan for their short videos. While with Koechlin, they scripted and produced a powerful monologue about rape and how it is perceived in society called Rape–It’s Your Fault, with Khan they deconstructed the making of Every Bollywood Party Song.

In December last year, Bhat and Khamba had put out a video calling applicants to their six-month writers’ residency programme called ‘AIB First Draft’, to encourage young, fresh screenwriting talent—the sort of program they wished they’d had when they started writing together, they said. The initiative, which received a largely positive response started in March, with eight writers selected from applications received from all over the country.

One of Bhat’s last comments is a tweet to an AIB video from June 2015 titled Unoffended. It opens with this mock-news report:

“For centuries now, India’s glorious culture has been built on its robust heritage of people being able to take offence to anything at all. However, a new wave of terror operatives is unleashing psychological warfare upon the citizens of India by refusing to take offence to anything at all. This deadly group…calls itself Cool Headed Individuals Living Logically, aka CHILL."

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Vangmayi Parakala

Vangmayi Parakala is a multimedia journalist who focuses on literary culture, while keeping an eye on how the internet and mobile phones influence literature, photography, and communities. She also edits the Books and Relationships sections at Mint Lounge. Currently based in New Delhi, she is an alumna of the Department of English at the University of Delhi from where she earned her M.A, and of the Medill School of Journalism, Northwestern University, from where she earned her M.S. degree.
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