Amazon Prime Video | 1 hr 30 min | Released: July 2017
Whatever your opinion of his work, there is no denying that Zakir Khan has an awe-inspiring hold over his fans. This is clearly in evidence in his Amazon special, Haq Se Single, where throughout the show, the audience shouts out famous catchphrases, finishes sentences he starts off, and breaks into applause for seemingly straightforward statements. He has them eating out of his hand in a way that no other Indian comic does.
There is also no denying that Khan is a tremendously talented and skilled performer. He doesn’t seem to exert the slightest muscle in his body while performing—his stories just seems to flow out of him with preternatural ease.
It’s a pity that so many of his other stories are stretched too long, such as one about a woman who insisted on reading books to him over the phone.
It’s a pity, then, that he hasn’t exercised enough control in taming his material. At 90 minutes, Haq Se Single drags on for far too long (though, of course, the audience’s reaction suggests that they did not feel this way) even given Khan’s abilities. It’s also unfortunate that Khan tends to focus so much of his comedy on broadly sketched gender stereotypes—basically telling a series of rambling stories about women he has been involved with or interested in. There’s one about what it means when women don’t wear kajal, another about a woman trying to stop a fight, another about a live-in relationship that he was in.
Khan’s flattening out of his women characters does limit his comedy. Especially considering that the best joke and story in the special was not directly about a woman or relationships at all—but about his first experience of eating wasabi. It is a sublime bit of storytelling about two degrees of alienation (first from Japanese cuisine, and then the globalised cosmopolitan culture that brought wasabi to an Indian city) and Khan brilliantly evokes a set of imaginary characters who come to advise him during his moment of wasabi-induced agony.
It’s a pity that so many of his other stories are stretched too long, such as one about a woman who insisted on reading books to him over the phone. Clearly the special was always intended to focus on Khan’s experiences in relationships, but the comedian doesn’t develop much of the material beyond thin generalisations. We can only hope that in his future work and upcoming specials, Khan allows his characters to have more dimensions, and that he allows his own comedic vision to expand beyond romantic relationships, to include such unexpected delights as his story of the first time he ate wasabi.
Dead Ant review policy: 1) We pay for shows that we review. 2) When we review live shows of any kind, we might mention subjects that are dealt with, but will avoid more detailed discussion of premises or jokes. 3) When we review or discuss YouTube videos and OTT specials, since they are already accessible across locations, we may get into more details discussions of the material. These reviews aim to foster closer conversations about comedy, and hence are for people who have already watched the videos, or don’t mind knowing details of it beforehand.