The Department of English organised a UGC-sponsored two-day National Seminar on “Humour: Texts & Contexts”, on February 6 and 7, 2015.
The Seminar was unique in that it sought to study humour and its applications in an academic setting, an enterprise that has never been attempted in Mumbai before.
The Chief Guest for the Inaugural session was Dr. Dilip Barad, Head of Post-graduate Department of English Literature and Language, of Maharaja Kishensinhji University, Bhavnagar. Mr. Kishore V. Rangnekar, President, Chikitsak Samuha, presided over the function. The Keynote speaker was Dr. Coomi S. Vevaina, Professor, Department of English, University of Mumbai. The Seminar Proceedings were released during the Inaugural ceremony of the Seminar.
Over two days and 11 sessions, an attempt was made to theorise humour and examine its myriad applications in fields as diverse as films, advertising, therapy and business. A summary of the sessions:
• In the Inaugural session on Day 1, Chief Guest Dr. Dilip Barad and Keynote speaker Dr. Coomi S. Vevaina spoke about the nature and importance of humour in life.
• This session was followed by a “Tribute to a Legend — Mr. R. K. Laxman”, by Mr. Sachin Labade. Using slides of Laxman’s characters and cartoons, Mr. Labade reminded everyone yet again what had made R. K. Laxman the nation’s best loved political commentator and a living legend.
• This Introductory session was followed by a session on Expression of Humour in Literature. This session was chaired by Dr. Dilip Barad, and sought to present the various theories of humour in classical and modern literature. Three papers were presented here: Mr. Dilip Kataliya spoke on Indian and Western Theories (Humour) at a Glance; Dr. Bhagyashree Varma spoke on LOL: Laughter Oratio Literature; and Ms. Kirti Nakhare spoke on The Past in the Present — The Use of Satire in Re-discovering Eklavya.
• In the next session, there was an exploration of the Socio-Political and Historical Context of Humour, where the resource persons spoke of how humour could be, and was being, used as a tool to negotiate dominant group relationships and thus to maintain the social status quo. This session was chaired by Dr. Coomi S. Vevaina, and the three papers in this session were presented by Ms. Ipsita Mitra, who spoke on Towards a Social Theory of Humour; Dr. Usha Vijailakshmi, who spoke on Humour as a Means of Societal Criticism in Post-Independence Tamil Nadu; and Ms. Chippy Susan Bobby, who spoke about Humour in the Teachings of Christ.
• In the last session of Day 1, internationally renowned puppeteer and story-teller Ms. Usha Venkatraman demonstrated the Understanding of Humour without Language Barriers. Through the use of puppets, Ms. Venkatraman kept the audience laughing and demonstrated the practical uses of laughter to relieve tensions, and also showed how humour could cross language barriers to create a common platform among diverse individuals.
• In the first session of Day 2, nationally-acclaimed exponent of Bharatnatyam Ms. Sandhya Damle, and her troupe of dancers, demonstrated the Depiction of Hasya Rasa through the Medium of Dance (Bharatnatyam). The dancers enacted the various shades of laughter and also performed a mini-ballet featuring Krishna’s pranks and his gopis’ reactions.
• This was followed by a session on Depiction of Humour in Films/Pop Culture, where three papers were presented on films from diverse cultures. The chairperson for this session was Mr. Rajan Jayakar, a well-known connoisseur of art and a die-hard fan of Bollywood. This session showed how films could critique social realities and prejudices to bring about a desirable change in society. The papers presented here were Comedy is a Serious Business: Subversion in Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times and The Great Dictator, by Ms. Michelle Philip; When Humour Convinces: Michel Foucault meets Rajkumar Hirani, by Ms. Mamta Mantri; and ‘How are you, Annae?’: The Racial Unconscious of Popular Malayalam Cine-Comedies, by Mr. Robin Xavier.
• In the next session, Humour in Social Media, the two papers presented explored the use of humour in social networking media and the effects of such use. Dr. Deepa Murudeshwar-Katre spoke on WhatsApp Jokes: Strengthening Stereotypes, and Mr. Rakesh Nambiar spoke on #Humour as A#Communicative Language@ Social Networking Sites. The session was chaired by Dr. Hemangi Bhagwat, Associate Professor in English, KJ Somaiya College, and former Principal, NSS College of Commerce and Economics.
• In the next session, Mr. Amitabh Chatterjee, Creative Director, Saints and Warriors Advertising Agency, spoke on Humour in Advertising. Using slides, Mr. Chatterjee showed how products could be sold more effectively and how manufacturers could ensure a prolonged presence in public memory, through the use of humour in advertising.
• A technical session followed this, where two papers were scheduled to be presented. Unfortunately, Ms. Runa Shajeev who was to present on Green Humour in Ranjeet Lal’s Nature Columns could not attend because of personal illness. The other paper was by Ms. Sucharita Sarkar on Why Mothers Need to Laugh … at Mothering. This session explored the beneficial effects of humour in everyday situations, and was chaired by Dr. Charanjeet Kaur, former Head of Department of English, and former in-charge Principal of Smt. CHM College, Ulhasnagar.
• In the next session, former President of the Bombay Psychiatric Society and practicing consulting psychiatrist at Andheri, Mumbai, Dr. Manoj Bhatawdekar, spoke on the Use of Humour as Therapy.
• Noted actor and stand-up comedian Mr. Navin Prabhakar explored the idea of Humour as Business.
Thus, all textual and social aspects of humour were explored over the two-day seminar.
The Chief Guest for the Valedictory session was Dr. Rambhau Badode, Director, Garware Institute of Career Education & Development, University of Mumbai & Member, Senate, AC and BOS, English. The Guests of Honour were Dr. Manoj Bhatawdekar, Consulting Psychiatrist and Mr. Navin Prabhakar, well-known actor and stand-up comedian.
Participants, teachers as well as students, were well-pleased with the sessions and arrangements, and commended the Department for the well-planned Seminar. Many participants also recommended that the Department organise such academic events on a more regular basis.
We wish to place on record our appreciation for the help and support we received from the Management, and teaching and non-teaching staff of the College, and our student volunteers, during the organisation of the Seminar.
Mrs. Deepti Mujumdar
Convenor and Head, Department of English
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