Made for India

Team 24 talks about adapting the screenplay and penning dialogues for the desi adaptation of the American original

Published: October 13, 2013 5:30:21 am

With support from both masses and media,the stage is set for Aditya Singhania to become the country’s next prime minister. Backing him further is his family legacy — he is the son of a popular assassinated political leader. At home,his mother charts his career,carefully planning each move,while the sister and cousin form his support system. Together,they paint a picture of the perfect family — only the sister is married to a man who despises his in-laws and often becomes the cause of their embarrassment. Even as all this is playing out,there’s a threat to Aditya’s life,which gets the Anti Terrorist Unit (ATU) and its head Jai Singh Rathod — who has his own family issues to tackle — to spring into action as they attempt to foil the assassination bid.

Rensil D’Silva calls 24 a soap set in the midst of a thriller — an aspect he feels will also prove to be the biggest draw of the show for the Indian audience. “In addition,there’s Anil Kapoor — a popular movie star — playing protagonist Jai Singh Rathore. So,in essence,24 has everything the desi audience can hope for in a TV show,including good production quality,” says D’Silva,who has adapted the screenplay of the original American series by the same name for India.

The premiere episode on October 4 scored a television rating point (TRP) of 1.7 and the following episode fetched 1.5,numbers that some might consider less than ideal for a show made on such steep a budget. However,the team at Colors,which is airing 24,says it’s on par with their expectations,given that they are experimenting with a new genre and format. “The first two episodes of 24 have done well and we’ve received positive reviews online and offline. The initial feedback suggests metros have appreciated the show overwhelmingly. We are confident it will find its appeal in metros and non-metro towns in the coming weeks,” says Manisha Sharma,the weekend programming head at Colors.

While Team 24 awaits the long-term verdict,critics,for now,have given it a thumbs up,especially for its production quality being the kind that has not been seen on Indian television before. The performances — apart from Kapoor,the cast includes acclaimed actors such as Gulshan Devaiah,Tisca Chopra and Mandira Bedi — and editing have kept the desi version as pacey and thrilling as the original.

D’Silva admits that remaking the show for India has been a long process. “We began a whole year before we started to shoot and kept two factors in mind. Firstly,that if something isn’t broken,then it shouldn’t be repaired,so we retained at least 50 per cent of the content from the original. Secondly,there are cultural differences between America and India. So,we changed the presidential system of America to the prime ministerial system of India,” says D’Silva,who adapted the series along with Bhavani Iyer,the co-writer of the acclaimed film Lootera.

Since the original series has been widely watched,even in India,the team was aware of the threat this fact poses to the adapted series if “some party poopers” decide to reveal the suspense on the internet. To counter the possibility,the team wrote the show in a way that it would be different from the original after episode 12. They have planted new characters and made small changes in the plot that will take the story in a different direction. “We spent months making changes to the master plot. So,while the broad story of all seasons will be similar to that of the original,these changes will give each season an unexpected twist,” assures D’Silva.

The only aspect of the series being criticised is its dialogues,considered over-the-top. Milap Zaveri,who co-wrote the dialogues,says this is intentional. “Anil Kapoor (also the producer of the show) hired me because he liked my work in Shootout at Wadala,which he had acted in. His brief was to find a balance so that the show doesn’t alienate the small-town audience or put off the urban viewers because any compromise on the screenplay or treatment would make the show lose its essence,” says Zaveri.

With much work at hand,therefore,Kapoor used the international format of production where he got Abhinay Deo (of Delhi Belly fame) to head the direction team and also direct the first 14 episodes before D’Silva,a film director himself,took over the remainder of the 24-episode series. Similarly,D’Silva shared his writing load with Bhavani Iyer,and Zaveri with Niranjan Iyengar. “Each episode is close to 45-minutes-long. If you calculate by that measure,the entire season amounts to at least 10 feature films,which is why Anil hired a huge team,” Zaveri explains.

The challenge,however,was to ensure the style remains consistent even as the show changes hands. That,says D’Silva,was achieved by keeping the two-camera set-up with cinematographers and the editing style consistent. “It helped that we all knew each other well before we came on board. But chiefly,we had to stop being show-offs and equal,not better,our colleagues.”

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