The Office cast: Mukul Chadda, Gopal Datt and Gauhar Khan
The Office creators: Rohan Sippy, Debby Rao
The Office rating: One and a half stars
In what universe will the one-liner and common punchline, ‘that’s what she said’, translate to ‘baby bhi yah boli’? Ideally, such a universe wouldn’t exist. But sadly we have one where the The Office (US) has been given an Indian avatar. And it only confirms the old adage, that some things are too good to be remade or adapted. This version of The Office, which is almost a frame-to-frame, scene-to-scene and at times a dialogue-to-dialogue copy of the American one, fails on numerous fronts–it is neither an honest homage, nor does it serve as a faithful copy.
Like the original, this one too is set in a mid-size paper company — Wilkins Chawla — in Faridabad. It revolves around a motley crew of employees who are stuck in this dead-end firm and are making the best of the situation. They are led by Jagdeep Kishore Chawla, a former salesman who has worked up the ranks, is now the head of the regional branch and calls himself a ‘funjabi’. Then there is TP Mishra, the eccentric, self-righteous, shudh-Hindi speaking salesman; Pammi, the simple, girl-next-door receptionist; Amit, the resident prankster and overachieving salesman and Bhadoria, the office peon who considers making tea an art. In true mockumentary style, the camera follows them around through a typical workday. But while the camera could have caught the ‘unscripted’, ‘candid’ moments of the characters, while breaking the fourth wall, here the cast chooses to acknowledge the camera at their own free will. Jim Halpert’s (The Office, US) wide-eyed expressions at the sheer incredulity of events unfolding around him have been reduced to a zombie-eyed, blinkless version.
We have not had a workplace comedy or show in India for a while. Office Office seems too long ago. The Indian remake of The Office could have been that show, where the daily quirks of a Saleem combined with the strict religiosity and morality of Anjali, the accountant could have have elicited comedy gold, but it’s not.
Many of the jokes and one-liners have been verbatim lifted, and they just don’t translate well in Hindi. The cast and characters too look half-hearted caricatures of the originals, even though care has been taken to match the physicality of the two. Rest all seems lazy. But unfortunately, the tight t-shirt wearing, headphones sporting, South Delhi’s Sapan Gill is no patch on the poker-faced and smug Ryan Howard, which BJ Novak — also the writer and executive producer of the show — played to perfection. Jagdeep Chawla neither has the mean and petulant streak of Michael Scott that humanised him, nor does he fully perfect the ‘insecure, desperate for approval’ arc of the character. The only one who really shines is Gopal Datt and his rendition of TP Mishra — Dwight Schrute in the original — with his eccentricities and flawless comic timing. His adoption of swadeshi, a strict work ethic, and extreme loyalty to the company along with accompanying paranoia about most things is perfect. Dwight Schrute would approve, albeit begrudgingly.
Double entendres and innuendo laden one-liners many a times served as the takeaways of The Office in both the US and UK versions, but lines like ‘Deepika Padukone aur apni kaamwaali, main dono ko equally tadta hoon’ and jokes where the the physical attributes of women are compared to a 2BHK and a leading character is wearing t-shirts where FBI is expanded to ‘Female body inspector’ seem crass, misogynistic and sexist.
This is Hotstar’s third special in a row which has been an adaptation of a hit international show, the earlier being Criminal Justice and Hostages, which didn’t really hit the mark. They might want to rethink their strategy and maybe focus on homegrown original stories.
Remakes and adaptations are a double-edged sword, while the hype around the original will get you eyeballs in the beginning, but when the remake fails to deliver, the flack is also equally severe. The Office India is the tenth official remake of the show. Watch only if you haven’t seen the originals.
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