Farewell CID: We’ve Lost our Last Link to ’90s Indian TV

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Farewell CID: We’ve Lost our Last Link to ’90s Indian TV

Illustration: Robin Chakraborty

T

he ’90s was a good time to be a kid. Growing up an only child with working parents, the TV often doubled up as my babysitter. Some of my earliest childhood memories took place in front of this ramshackle 20-inch Onida box TV in my grandmother’s room with 12 channels and a remote held together with several rubber bands to keep the batteries from falling out.

Baa and I often bickered over what to watch – I liked Just Mohabbat, her favourite was Ek Mahal Ho Sapno Ka. But all this changed when one evening in 1998, we were introduced to the wondrously mysterious world of CID. Never one for shows that were too intense (she hated Aahat with a vengeance), Baa however took an instant shine to CID – the hamminess of ACP Pradyuman and its crazy episode arcs. I was taken by Daya’s brawny presence; in those pre-Netflix days, he felt almost Superman-like to me. Much before gritty American shows like La Femme Nikita and X-Files, our first brush with murder mystery came when ACP Pradyuman looked at a body and nonchalantly said, “Yahan toh laash hai.” Years before binge-watching became a thing, Baa and I would watch episode after episode of CID. The show became to Sony, what Sooryavansham was to Set Max – the perfect filler between KBC and IPL seasons.

Testament to just how much CID has been consumed by my generation over the years is the fact that Shivaji Satam’s face is the first thing that pops up in my mind when I hear anyone say “ACP”. Despite Satam’s prolific career, with performances in Vaastav and Naayak, he is known to all of India as “woh CID wala actor”. The same goes for Aditya Srivastava, CID’s brooding and intense Inspector Abhijeet. Not many would have noticed him in Black Friday and Gulaal and even today if people spot him in Mumbai, they call out, “Abhijeet, Abhijeet, CID.” But it is Dayanand Shetty, who plays Daya who is truly self-aware. In Rohit Shetty’s Singham Returns, you can see Shetty embracing his Daya-ness and playing a cameo as one of the cops whose sole job is, you guessed it, darwaza todna. And then there’s Dr Salunkhe, the OG mansplainer. I am yet to see an episode where Salunkhe doesn’t smugly dismiss his forensics assistant, Dr Tarika’s inputs.

Among the many things that have stayed with me about CID was its attempt at brand integration. I recall having a hearty laugh with Baa, as we watched Fredericks and Daya talk about picking between Indian Idol’s Abhijeet Sawant or Amit Sana in the middle of a witness interrogation. It still comes up every time we discuss brand integration at work — obviously, as a cautionary tale in how not to go about it.

But subtlety and life lessons weren’t the reasons Pradyuman and his men were our favourite people on TV.

CID is a pint-size Bollywood masala entertainer minus the song and dance.  Every episode of CID ticked all the right boxes of what average Indian TV viewers wanted – action, drama, the right kind and amount of suspense, and lots to laugh about. Idealist protagonists that you could look up to? Check. Stereotyping a Catholic cop as a class-clown caricature for comedic effect? Check. A veteran cop trying to keep his hot-headed minions together because your elders are always right? Double check.

Baa and I often bickered over what to watch – I liked Just Mohabbat, her favourite was Ek Mahal Ho Sapno Ka. But all this changed when one evening in 1998, we were introduced to the wondrously mysterious world of CID.

And despite all the cliches, CID kept us entertained over three decades. Though the show has barely evolved over the years, it has inspired all the Savdhaan Indias and Crime Patrols and it has outlived saas-bahu epics – Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi, Kahaani Ghar Ghar Kii, and Kasautii Zindagii Kay. More than the tears of Tulsi and Anup Soni’s “saavdhan rahiye-satark rahiye” warnings, we did not have enough of watching Abhijeet jump off the edge of a building trying to rescue a woman who is already plummeting to the ground. Or Pradyuman looking at a body and saying, “Is laash ka munh to ab Salunke hi khulwayega.”

But despite the show’s camp value peaking toward the mid-noughties, Baa and I did not give up CID. She, who had moved to neighbouring house by then, would call up on the landline every time an episode of CID was airing. It became a ritual of sorts where we’d spend hours discussing the crimes and giving our two cents on who the killer was. However, the most fun would be to watch my 70-year-old grandma fangirl each time Daya would break down a door.  

For me, CID is not so much about heroes defying gravity, physics, and all logic but more about the precious 45 minutes during which I saw a completely different side of my Bhagavad Gita-reading, Shreenathji-loving Baa. And though today I watch it ironically and laugh with my friends because “it’s so bad it’s good”, I wish I could go back to the time where you didn’t have to pretend to like a show just to fit in. Where I could sit next to my Baa, smelling the familiar scent of her mehendi, switch on that jaggedy old Onida TV again and watch a police procedural with absolutely zero surprises. A little like family — only with a happy ending every time.

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