Zakir Khan can easily be considered one of the best stand-up comedians in the country right now. His niche is speaking in Hindi and making commentary on the general people around him whom he is closest to. It’s been a decade since the man has established his “Sakht Launda” image, and people are still enamored by his stand-up shows. It has only been a year since Zakir Khan’s last special was released, which received a positive reaction from a broad spectrum of people from around the world. This was probably the first time Zakir took a detour and spoke in detail about his family and his personal journey to becoming one of the most revered comics in the country.
As the year is ending, Zakir Khan is back with another Amazon Prime Special, Mann Pasand, loosely translated to things that your soul likes. The special was released on December 7, 2023, on the streaming platform, and it was directed by Nishant Nayak. This is the new special a year after the success of Tathastu, and as the comic suggests, it is not a deep personal story. As a comic, a quality that needs to be embraced is honesty along with self-deprecating humor. One must not sound overconfident while delivering a joke that borders on an opinion as well. Zakir Khan, just like in his old YouTube videos and the specials, seems to have not sidetracked from his good old technique of being casual with his language. In this special as well, Zakir Khan has not moved away from his usual style. This could be welcoming for those who are familiar with this kind of content. It could become a turn-off because his style of narrating will come across as repetitive and cannot generate as many laughs as before.
Something similar has happened, as per the second part of the last sentence mentioned above. Zakir Khan’s niche is to talk about relationships in general, a topic that has gained him nationwide popularity. This special, though, is an extension of the infamous set he presented at the festival organized by the famous comedy collective AIB. As the Amazon Special began, he jumped right into the stories from his childhood and the cliched father-mother jokes. It was highly relatable, but nothing new about it.
Zakir Khan’s strength lies in the language that he utilizes to gain the attention of the audience and the world-building he does with it. His positivity, along with his keen observational skills, is a quality many comedians have tried to emulate since his success. These qualities are present in Mann Pasand, but they could not emotionally resonate with anyone outside of the people who were present at the special.
Zakir Khan and many others in his profession have presented stories about friends from school. His content hits differently because he and his lingo represent the small towns of India. In this special, this charm does not work because there is nothing new about the material he has presented. Stories about how he met his girlfriend are done and dusted.
The comedian hardly took any risks when it came to the material for the special. Presenting a rehashed version is a rather lazy attitude towards the art you have dedicated yourself to. It is jarring to witness a comedian of Zakir’s stature resort to material from his older sets. The comedian tried to present a difference between how men and women travel and react to basic situations. All the jokes comparing men and women are cliche and overused. This is a decent premise to base his set on, but the humor has not evolved. The same old jokes about women and their style of argument and comparison do not cut out anymore. As a comedian, he should understand how to offer a different perspective on the situation. The trope of including stories of childhood friends was not updated. The audience watching the special at home may have come across this material from different comedians.
There needs to be variety, or falling into a rut will destroy the caliber of the comedian. Zakir Khan’s popularity is stupendous, and he will have to up his game to sustain the popularity he has garnered for himself. He recently got a full house at the Sydney Opera House and London’s Albert Hall, which proves his mettle as a comedian. This special was a big deviation from the usual content he presents. There was never a moment when the audience would feel this was something extraordinary, a term he could resonate with in his previous Amazon Special. Having said that, several jokes landed well, and it improved the viewing experience. It resonated with the kind of Zakir we were missing from this comedy piece. It proves this material was churned out with a lot of diligence and attention to detail. A joke involving an air hostess and two Indians stood out, but besides that, the entire special fell flat.
Zakir Khan gets the nuances and the body language of the characters right. If these good aspects were present throughout the special, it would have stood out. Sadly, the revered comedian was dependent on fail-safe options. The special worked in bits and pieces where Zakir was equally criticizing how men and women function daily. The ending of the special was a mess because it was hard to follow his set after a certain point. Most of the jokes in the end were only chuckle-worthy. None of them made anyone laugh out loud. It was interesting to hear that the last joke of the special was a funny callback to a joke he made right in the beginning. Besides the obvious flaws, Mann Pasand is a lukewarm stand-up special.