Original creators: Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant
Adapted by: Rajesh Devraj
Cast: Mukul Chadda, Gopal Datt, Samridhi Dewan, Sayandeep Sengupta
Seasons: 1 (2019)
The Office, a Hotstar special, is an Indian adaptation of the famous British of the same name, which chronicles the lives of regular employees at an office in the style of a mockumentary. Both the original (2001), written and directed by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, and the excellent American adaptation (2005) achieved star status, with characters were household names.
If you’re a fan of the British and American shows, you’ll have a tough time digesting Hotstar’s version. Pam has become Pammi, the Dundees have become Chaddies and “That’s what she said’ has been translated to, wait for it, “Baby bhi yehi boli”.
The show is set in Wilkins Chawla, a paper company in Faridabad, where the Indian equivalent of oddball Dwight Schrute is the right-wing, “sanskari” PT Mishra because “Bears. Beets. Battlestar Gallactica” = deshbhakti. In other words, Mishra’s nationalism talk is a substitute for Schrute’s weird nonsense. Michael Scott has become Jagadeep Chadda, pretty boy Jim is now Amit and thanks to one cliched south Indian character, we aren’t calling it The North Indian Office.
First of all, calling The Office an adaptation is a crime. It’s a downright copy with Indian filters and, at times, it seems as though the writers have used the help of Google translate. The show’s writers have literally copied the premises of each American episode, right from character introductions to their expressions on and off the mockumentary camera, from the build-up of a joke to its punchlines. For instance, the first five minutes of the show, in which Jagadeep Chaddha is introduced as the boss is a frame-by-frame replica of the first five minutes of the US Office with Steve Carell as Michael Scott, the boss. Thankfully, the original writers have been credited in each episode.
There are several issues with mirroring a foreign show. Situations that make sense in an American context might not translate to an Indian one and what seemed funny or cringe-worthy 14 years ago, could be difficult to relate to and even criminal in this age. Thanks to the copycat efforts of Rajesh Devraj and his team (identity theft is not a joke, Hotstar!), we’re served an Indian office celebrating Diversity Day and a boss making below-the-belt racist, homophobic and generally unacceptable comments every time he opens his mouth. The fact that we’re in the post-#metoo era seems to have escaped the writers.
If you haven’t seen the original British show or its American version, then The Office might be bearable. But why would you watch it when both the series are streaming on Netflix and Amazon Prime?