Although little is as unfunny as the study of comedy, Sigmund Freud’s 1905 book, The Jokeand its Relation to the Unconscious, argues that comedy arises when thoughts and emotions that lay hidden in the subconscious are expressed consciously.
Hindi film melodrama foregrounds the emotions and blends them in its inimitable masala, so we can, as Amitabh Bachchan says, leave the cinema with a smile on our lips and a tear in our eye. Hindi films are notable for their surfeit of emotion, or what could be called melodramas. The audience doesn’t feel the same emotion as the character, that is, it doesn’t necessarily identify with him or her. If the character is angry with himself we may feel pity rather than share the anger (or a mix of the two), but when it comes to the body emotions-fear, laughter, tears-if we don’t respond with the right emotion, then the film isn’t working. We can read the film differently-so a truly dreadful movie can be funny rather than romantic, as can a horror film, but if a comedy doesn’t make the audience laugh then we must all go home.