Stop Hating On India’s “The Office”! Haven’t We Lapped Up Remakes of Mrs. Doubtfire & Reservoir Dogs?

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Stop Hating On India’s “The Office”! Haven’t We Lapped Up Remakes of Mrs. Doubtfire & Reservoir Dogs?

Illustration: Reynold Mascarenhas

“O

h Lord, every day we stray further away from God’s light. What is this abomination?” “Have some shame?” “How do you live with yourself?” read a few comments on Facebook. You would think that the outrage is over the cutting down of mangroves to build the Mumbai metro. But no, a far deadlier “sin” had been committed: Hotstar released a trailer for the official Indian adaptation of The Office, a popular sitcom, the American version of which has an avid following in India. Ricky Gervais, the co-creator of the show, tweeted his approval with a “Ker-Ching”, as he laughed his way to the bank. But even that’s not enough to convince angry desi fans that it’s not the end of the world. 

When the trailer released a few weeks ago, The Office fans in India lost their shit faster than Michael Scott loses his cool when he has to sit through an HR meeting with Toby. The unthinkable had just happened. It was like finding out that India’s Mission to Mars was staged at Ramoji film city. Diehard Indian fans, whose idea of humour was Golmaal until a few years ago, found it hard to fathom the idea of a remake. It was all good until Bollywood was attempting to ape Reservoir Dogs and Mrs Doubtfire. But The Office is sacred, Steve Carell is God, and this is blasphemy. 

 

 

How dare anyone?  

Well, the Americans dared when they adapted the original British version, which lasted two seasons and only fourteen episodes. The show has since been adapted to nine versions in seven languages, with little outrage from the Czechs, Israelis, Finns and others about “ruining a classic”. Stromberg went on to garner popularity closer to the US adaptation, becoming one of the most sought-after comedy shows in German-speaking countries. Gervais may jokingly claim that his UK version was “quality over quantity”, but it is the US version featuring Michael, Jim, Pam, and Dwight, that most of us worship. If self-proclaimed internet gatekeepers of the time had revolted against the American adaptation with Change.org petitions (yes, there’s a Change.org petition to stop the Indian remake of The Office, who cares about the water crisis in Chennai?), the world would have missed out on all that laughter. The American version of The Office, created by Greg Daniels, ran for nine seasons with over 200 episodes and innumerable Steve Carell GIFs to last us a lifetime. 

Look, I’m not suggesting that the Indian version will attain a cult status because of its mere association with the classic. Even Rohan has a Gavaskar after his name, but we all know how that panned out. However, he was given a fair chance, and so should the Indian The Office. Can you imagine that all the anger directed toward the show is based on a one-minute trailer in a country where we take two minutes to make our noodles and five minutes to decide what our next display picture should be? 

As an admirer of The Office (US), I have always been curious about the prospect of an Indian version.

Internet discussions often attract extremes and it’s no different in this case. If you haven’t seen The Office, you are so out of it. And if you have, you must hate the idea of its adaption or you’re not a true fan. However, I happen to be the man in the middle. As an admirer of The Office (US), I have always been curious about the prospect of an Indian version, considering how entertaining our offices can be. Every Indian office-goer has encountered at least one loud boss who cracks an inappropriate joke every now and then, the overenthu HR person who forces you to participate in a Rangoli competition every Diwali, and the nerdy IT guy whose solution to all your problems begins with an order to restart the machine. We don’t need Michael, Jim and Pam; we need our own desi characters with their quirks, and it seems to be what Hotstar is offering. And I see no reason why were are whining already.

I have grown up in the ‘90s watching saas-bahu serials with my mother, where 10-year leaps were taken every third week and a certain Mihir Virani just refused to die. Gems – like Dekh Bhai Dekh and Zabaan Sambhalke (a remake of Mind Your Language) – were few and far between. At that point, English comedies, like The Office, F.R.I.E.N.D.S, and Seinfeld came as life-saver. But even then, I imagined a desi version of Andy Bernard, Ross, Rachel, and Kramer. I craved for a show that incorporated our culture and sense of humour. Something that I could relate to and not arrive at a hurried conclusion by taking a “which character are you” quiz.  

Could the Indian remake of The Office be that show? I’m not sure, but I have no shame in admitting that I am looking forward to finding out.

So breathe in and breathe out and watch the trailer of The Office here.

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