Dark comedy/ black humour is a genre that has seen its rise in the recent times. By rise, I mean it is being increasingly employed in many films that we see now. We’ve until now discussed a lot about what this dark comedy is and how to categorise it in a film. Nowhere have we discussed what works in a dark comedy and how does one fairly succeed in doing it so. By drawing in some comparisons, one could easily tell what works and what does not work in a dark comedy genre. Read further to know about it.
Before that, What is the trump card that filmmakers have by opting a dark comedy genre? A filmmaker has in his hand a various types of issues like rape, corruption, religion and many controversial such themes to play around with. One has so many such controversial elements to make fun of and bring limelight on. One could right now easily ask ‘why can’t someone make a complete dark film (direct portrayal in fact) on these themes than that of a dark comedy’. Fair enough.
“These themes are embarrassing!”
Some of these themes are very much cringeworthy. Many sections are badly reluctant to take notice of it due to this. Hence, dark portrayal does no good in terms of reaching out to the masses. That’s when, sugar coating comes into play. We use another medium to deliver the intended to them directly. That’s why, dark comedy is preferably the optimal solution to reach out a large amount of crowd. Dark portrayal would probably reach a very negligible amount of crowd like the ones reading this article.
‘A grounded character is a must in this genre’
There are some very significant factors one would’ve to count in while opting for this genre. One among those is that of having a grounded character for the audience to empathise with. If you have 5 people talking at 20 decibels higher than that of the audience, you need a 6th person to be talking at the audience’s level on the screen. This is exactly what the makers of Savarakathi (2018) did literally. In the film, Myshkin and his gang has exactly one member (The pedappa) that is totally grounded and asking questions that the audience ask while watching it (literally). This results in total connectivity and the audience enjoy the events no matter how alienated these events are. Probably, this is where Oru Nalla Naal Paathu Solren (2017) misfired. There was no one for the audience to see as one among them. Each of them were in their own extremes. Though, this film was enjoyed by a small section of audience, the presence of a empathizable character would’ve resulted in a different opinion maybe.
One interesting observation in films that fall under this genre would be the characterisation of the protagonist. They are either totally bad themselves or they are very good but unlucky. It’s just these two under which one could categorise the protagonists of these films. Take ugly (2014). The primary lead himself has grey attributes associated with him that form the events in the film. But in Savarakathi (2018), the protagonist Ram isn’t that bad as such. He’s just the victim of circumstances around him.
‘The events got to be balanced’
The another significant factor would be to balance one’s events in this genre. One cannot go on being extremely cruel & unfair to portray the dark element. This’ll again make the audience stay out of the film. The simple idea is to decide on which dark theme one is going to talk about. For instance, if it is corruption in politics, one might not want to bring in unwanted murder/ rape into it. Probably, if it is going to fit into it in the most organic way and the result is still balanced, one could opt for it.
Things weren’t very much balanced with Jil jung juk (2016) and hence the result didn’t favour them too. The idea of the scene where Radha ravi is revealed to be having prostate cancer (kottakkal one) sounds damn good on paper. But when viewed along with many other extreme or unusual scenes, didn’t kind of bring laughter on many faces. There were just too many of such dark yet funny situations created just to kindle laughter. But, these didn’t in over all seem to have a lot of purpose in the movement of the events. Hence, when these were put together and viewed on the screen, it seemed to have a negative effect on the audience. Like, the cheer girls that rolex rawther owned and the names of the guns uttered by attack, are all good on paper. But doesn’t dwell well with the audience from the screen.
In contrast we have films that have balanced out very neatly. Like Oru Kidayin karunai Manu (2017). The humour was so organic and balanced that many enjoyed it. We have Newton (2017) which again balances the political imbalances and terrorism and yet never fails to bring on smiles on our faces. We don’t see films like that fetching awards. But it did! And then we have Thondimuthalum driksakshiyum (2017) which again balances the corruption involved in police stations and cases associated with it yet makes us laugh hard! Films like these fetching awards is again a good sign for our industry!
I personally feel dark comedy is restricted to only crime, violence and stuff. Is that the end of it? The scope of it is not completely explored by us yet. This is why, the last episode of Solo (2017) completely blew me away. I’m sure it would’ve for you too. In fact, if it wasn’t dealt in the way it was in solo (the comedy approach) it wouldn’t have been this deep for us. It’s time that we see more of that kind of a dark comedy here.