Mumbai: The team of All India Bakchod (AIB) -- a group of standup comedians under attack by the Maharashtra government for its controversial video featuring offensive language used by Bollywood personalities in it -- has broken its silence over the issue, and said "they're just jokes".
A three-part edited version of the 'Roast', titled AIB Knockout -- a December 2014 charity comic event where actors Ranveer Singh and Arjun Kapoor were poked fun at -- were posted on online video-sharing platform YouTube Jan 28. But the clips were pulled down Tuesday, after the Maharashtra government initiated a probe into the below-the-belt content of the programme.
In an 720-word open letter posted on Twitter Wednesday, the AIB team -- Gursimran Khamba, Tanmay Bhat, Rohan Joshi and Ashish Shakya -- via its @AllIndiaBakchod handle, said: "Dear everyone, Let's just all take a deep breath. They're just jokes. Unfunny, crass or whatever you want to call them, they're still just jokes."
The AIB team has explained that "no one person or force forced us to take this video down...under the circumstances, this is us being pragmatic."
Explaining what they do, they wrote: "People who've been following our work will know that we've always tried to experiment with content, be it on Youtube or a live comedy show, with the sole intent of making people laugh and/or think."
"AIB Knockout was another such attempt to try something new and bring the roast format to a country where celebrities aren't often known to laugh at themselves."
"To our pleasant surprise, we managed to bring together consenting adults who were willing to be made fun of by other consenting adults in a crowd full of (wait for it) consenting adults. And if we're honest, it was a phenomenally entertaining evening."
While filmmaker Karan Johar was the 'Roast Master', Arjun and Ranveer were sporting enough to be the 'Roastees'. In the audience were popular Bollywood celebrities like Sonakshi Sinha, Deepika Padukone and Alia Bhatt, who were seen laughing away -- much like the audience at the event.
The jokes, the AIB team has said, "happened in the spirit of irony and good humour".
"It was just liberating to be able to say those things, things that people have thought in one form or another privately for years. A lot of the laughter that night came from that spirit (there's your answer, people who wondered why everyone was laughing at terrible jokes).
"The video came with a clear disclaimer with several age and content warnings. No one was forced to watch it, we didn't buy airtime on every single TV channel on earth to broadcast it. YouTube videos do not magically auto-play in front of you. And yet the videos got over 8 million views," the letter read further.
The AIB Knockout was based on a format "same as any international roast i.e. insult comedy, delivered in the form of one-liners designed to be as rude as possible".
Attempting to provide "context", they said: "It is performed with the understanding that none of the material is to be taken seriously -- none of the performers actually mean the 'offensive' things they say to each other on the night."
The idea, they have said, was to "push the envelope of comedy in this country" in "our own juvenile, idiotic way".
"But then the envelope pushed back. Things got to a point where people who have supported us, people who work hard to make what we do come to life, were put in a position where things could get deeply unpleasant for them. And that's a problem."
"We can live with abuse, hate, anger, fury, rage, ignorance, bigotry and perhaps even bullying. But we don't want anybody to get hurt because of us. And we do mean anybody," they added.
Once the videos went viral, the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena on Tuesday demanded an apology from all the persons involved in the AIB Roast, and said that it would not allow Johar, Arjun and Ranveer's movies to be screened if they do not apologise.
AIB's message "to everyone railing against us and against the stars that were present, to everyone who's decided we're destroying the fabric of our culture, to everyone who's called us seditious pornographers while plotting the downfall of Indian Values and Civilisation As We Know It", is: "We would like to reiterate that we are just a bunch of comedians who work, and have always worked, without any malicious intent whatsoever".