With the emergence of stand up comedy in India, there were a bunch of English speaking comics who started a revolution by introducing desi flavour into their sets. In a matter of few years, the arena that was once held by key players like Vir Das and Papa CJ, saw the rise of many individuals and groups who sold comedy as a commodity and even managed to carve a market for the same. To cut through the fancy crowd, comedian Zakir Khan caught the audience’s nerve and introduced his ‘Sakht Launda’ character. Zakir’s rooted appeal and acceptance of his desi-ness was relatable and funny.
If you have been an avid viewer of Zakir Khan’s sets, you would know that more than his content, it is his storytelling that leaves the audience in splits and it was probably this quality of the artist that encouraged Amazon Prime Video to sign off on a show that lets Zakir be the storyteller.
Chacha Vidhayak Hain Humare (My Uncle’s an MLA) is Amazon Prime Video’s 8 episode series that stars Zakir in the lead role. Much in line with what we have seen so far by the comic, this show plays on his ‘Sakht Launda’ (tough guy) persona that has found a place in our desi pop culture. The story of this show centers around Ronny (Zakir Khan), a 20-something whose life is not driven by big ambitions. All he wants is a cushy life where he can float along using convenient lies. He’s the boss of his cocoon where his followers take his word for the ultimate truth, all because he pretends that his Uncle is an MLA. In northern parts of India, where phrases like ‘Tu jaanta hai mera baap kaun hai?’ (Do you know who my father is?) are casually thrown around to get a job done, Zakir’s Ronny feels believable but that association with reality ends right there.
The show is an exaggerated version of his stage act and while one would imagine that an extended ‘Sakht Launda’ act would be impressive, it falters right from the start. In the comedy space, no one enjoys loyal fandom as much as Zakir and the show hugely relies on the same fan base to generate its viewership. The lazy writing that fails to get a laugh, underdeveloped characters that are merely cardboards and the below par attempts at evoking emotion confirm that being funny on stage and creating a comedy show require different set of skills and Zakir does not have it all.
Ronny is the do-gooder who appears in an instant to help the woman he loves and she, in turn, has completely friend-zoned him. His two minions believe him blindly and are mere yes-men whose characters don’t offer anything. His stern father, emotional mother and annoying sister are nothing but stereotypes and at no point do we see a glimmer of uniqueness in any of their characters. Basically, all the characters in this show are just there to accentuate Ronny’s universe with no standing of their own.
The treatment of the show is also quite confusing. It does not generate the laughs as one would expect from a comedy but also confuses the audience when it plays out its emotional scenes. In a scene where Ronny realises that the love of his life has patched up with her ex-boyfriend, you see a montage of their moments with some sad music playing. There is also a scene where Ronny finds out about his father’s employment and you are bombarded with flashbacks cut with tears rolling down his eyes.
The finale of Chacha Vidhayak Hain Humare is another beast altogether which must serve as a lesson in ‘how not to write a show’. After a strange turn of events, the show’s climax feels so far-fetched that even in the make-believe universe, it stands out like a sore thumb. The treatment suddenly goes quite Crime Patrol in nature where round trolley shots are excessively used to establish an intimidating interrogation.
Directed by Vikas Chandra and edited by Afzal Shaikh, the show consistently struggles to find its tone and that lack of voice disrupts the viewing experience. Zakir Khan is not a great actor and being at the center of an 8 episode series, this gets confirmed over and over again. Zakir Hussain, who plays Ronny’s father, and Alka Amin, who plays his mother, both do a fine job but are unfortunately not given enough material to work with. Abhimanyu Singh, who plays the Vidhayak Chacha, has proven his talent in films like Gulaal but here, he is massively underutilised.
Amazon Prime Video has been churning out shows with Indian comics but barring some (Biswa Kalyan Rath’s Laakhon Mein Ek), they still feel like an experiment. The web series space is still in its infancy stage and this experimentation will go on until someone hits gold. Chacha Vidhayak Hain Humare is certainly not that show.