Sachin Acharya had a harrowing time on the sets of 'Comedy Nights with Kapil', when he and his family - which includes two children, aged 9 and 14 - were forced to remain seated for 9 hours without food, water or even a bathroom break.
The country's highest-rated comedy show on television, Comedy Nights with Kapil, reduced me and my two children, aged nine and 14, to tears on Wednesday when we had the misfortune of being part of its studio audience.
For almost nine hours - from 2 pm to 10.30 pm on June 18 - we were asked to sit in one place, without water, without food and without any bathroom breaks. We were not even allowed to leave our seats while we waited for the stars to appear, and we waited even more for the show's recording to start on its sets in Goregaon.
Sachin Acharya and Kapil Sharma on 'Comedy Nights with Kapil'
The impeccable comic timing of its host Kapil Sharma and the witty banter of the comic cast aside, the nine-hour nightmare that my family and I endured under inhuman conditions made us feel we were in some kind of detention centre.
It was not only my family, but several others in the audience who had travelled hundreds of kilometres from various parts of the country to watch this hugely popular show felt the same. All this while the actors and the crew kept drinking water, coffee and even protein shakes on stage.
This left a bitter aftertaste because of the taken-for-granted rules for audience conduct and utter disrespect for the fans by the crowd management team. Women and children were denied a bathroom break for hours. Not just that, Sharma, easily one of India's most-loved comedians, taunted a female fan who stood up to inform him that her husband and her children were not allowed to return to their seats following a loo break which they literally had to fight for. `We have heard of joint families in India, but not loo families,` he told the woman. An uproarious laughter followed, thus humiliating her further.
Instead of showing any sympathy or concern for the children who were left outside without their mother, Sharma laughed at her plight. I was anything but amused at this crass humour. The crowd had entered at 2 pm, and after a four and a half hour wait, the shoot finally began at 6:30 pm. During this time, our phones were taken away from us, we were not allowed to drink water, or given any food.
Two senior citizens, who got tired of being shuffled around and later denied a bathroom break for a long time, were heard muttering profanities under their breath. At one point they were overheard discussing the poor lighting and seating arrangements made available for the audience in their row, which was at a precarious distance from the camera equipment. There was little illumination for the audience to move around.
After many protests from the audience, we were allowed a loo break. But even here, we were allowed to leave only one by one. If your bladder was screaming, well, bad luck. The bathrooms were far from the set and thus the agony only increased.
Once the shoot began, no movement or water breaks were allowed. This was unfair as the cast and crew themselves munched on biscuits during the break. This went on until 10.30 pm, when I decided enough was enough. I told my family we should walk off. After all, how long can children wait without food or water? While I was leaving, one of the crewmembers tried to stop me and when I did not relent, he threatened to `fix me`. But I was in no mood to listen. Which parent would?
What pained me the most was that I was hoping for one of the most exciting experiences of my life along with my children; instead I was left hungry, thirsty and dejected. Even the kids of Karisma Kapoor, who had come with two nannies, left the show for more than an hour. When they returned, Kapil asked them, `Bachchon neend aa rahi hai kya?`
- As told to Sharad Vyas
Pappu Lekhraj, a veteran event coordinator,
This is really wrong, and it should not happen. Kapil's show is incomplete without the audience. The audience should also get the same importance. I don't know much about this incident, but this does not happen on TV shows. There's always a proper break, and arrangements are made for the audience in other shows
The other side
Preeti Simoes, creative director of Comedy Nights with Kapil, denied there was any unprofessional behavior on her team's part. She said the shooting was scheduled for 4 pm and `there is no way we would call the audience at 2 pm.` She added that actor Karisma Kapoor's kids were in the audience, too. `Do you think we will do this to kids?`