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4-min read

The Office India: An Enthusiastic Homage to The Office US, If It Wasn't So Cringe-worthy

The Office India kind of grows on you from episode 8 onwards, probably because you give up any hope of it offering anything new.

Satshya Tharien | News18.com

Updated:July 3, 2019, 5:07 PM IST
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The Office India: An Enthusiastic Homage to The Office US, If It Wasn't So Cringe-worthy
The Office India kind of grows on you from episode 8 onwards, probably because you give up any hope of it offering anything new.
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Warning: Spoilers ahead if you haven’t watched The Office US. Because that’s exactly what The Office India is.

The show is a word-for-word Hindi translation of the US version, with the exact same set & dialogues (‘That’s what she said’ becomes ‘Baby bhi yehi boli’). It’s like the scriptwriters just pressed Ctrl+H (find & replace) and changed Scranton to Faridabad, Dunder Mifflin to Wilkins Chawla, Christmas to Navratri, kabaddi to basketball, The Dundies to, wait for it... The Chaddies (cringe max).

I must preface this with saying that I am a massive fan of The Office US, as it’s one of the rare shows that made me literally laugh out loud with its clever writing and nuanced characters. When I first saw the trailer for The Office India, like many other fans I groaned at the possibility of them ‘ruining’ it (I blame the ‘Funjabi’ and lazy ‘TI*S’ joke). But in the spirit of fairness, I decided to give the show a chance and watched the entire 13-episode season.

I regretted it within the first 10 minutes of the first episode.

The first few episodes are particularly painful to watch, because it comes across as a gross caricature of the US version. Jagdeep Chaddha is India’s Michael Scott, but an exaggerated version, with unconvincing catchphrases (‘Pammi Pammi, meri bachchon ki mummy’), over-the-top mannerisms and an absurd ‘ha-ha!’ that he ends every sentence with.

There isn’t much of a plot since it’s just a collection of the most iconic Office episodes placed one after the other. You have the Dundie awards, Office Olympics, Office fire, Bag Lady etc. Even if you try to sit through the episode by mouthing the dialogues, you are rendered speechless after hearing terrible punchlines like ‘Nobody tells me what to do and I tell nobody what to do’.

The show kind of grows on you from episode 8 onwards, probably because you give up any hope of it offering anything new. It is inevitable to draw comparisons with the US version, simply because this is a Hindi adaptation, nay, translation of the show, with a set of Indian actors.

While Michael Scott is a lovable goofball, who has bizarre theories about life and has surprising moments of wisdom & insight, Jagdeep Chaddha comes off as incessantly grating. Your soul twists in agony as he butchers every classic Michael punchline. It isn’t all his fault, most of the humour is lost in translation. There are those rare moments when he makes you laugh out loud, but that is only when he is interacting with the other characters. Those golden Michael Scott moments where he is talking to the camera are not as effective, as Jagdeep overcompensates with an exaggerated tone and gestures. You feel like you’re a child he’s explaining a joke to, and it is anything but endearing.

You could understand Michael’s loathing of the deadpan HR Manager Toby Flenderson, who was in many ways his polar opposite as a drab and dreary worker. You can’t really empathise, or even understand, Jagdeep’s hatred for the HR Manager played by Mayur Bansiwal because he seems like a perfectly normal man, whose only failing seems to be the fact that he can’t draw a rangoli properly.

The show feels hollow without characters like Kelly Kapoor, Meredith & Creed. Kelly Kapoor in particular would’ve added much needed comic relief and more dimension to the Ryan/Sapan character who comes across as a hapless intern, and not the pretentious, manipulative worker he is.

Jim/Amit & Pam/Pammi have such tepid chemistry that you’d rather they stayed friends, particularly in the scene where Pammi has to lean in quite a bit to fall asleep on Amit’s shoulder. Gauahar Khan misses the sharpness of Jan, and comes across as someone exhausted by Michael’s antics, but does nothing to keep him on his toes.

Shining moments: Gopal Dutt who plays TP Mishra (Dwight Schrute) is a delight to watch. His character embodies all the qualities you love and hate about Dwight, without being a caricature of the complex character. I would absolutely watch an entire series centred around him. Bhadoria the office boy, a character created just for the Office India is a fine example of adapting to a new version by adding a topical, relevant character who complements the plot. The other characters I quite liked were Sarla ji/Phyllis, Kutty/Kevin and Rinchin/Oscar. I wish they gave Anjali/Angela more screen time.

There was so much more potential to bringing out the Indian sensibilities/quirks in this adaptation, like the American version did when it adapted the UK one. The best way to describe this show would be an enthusiastic homage to The Office US, if it wasn’t so cringeworthy. Better Life Foundation did a much more convincing mockumentary depicting an office with a bumbling boss. Incidentally, both The Office India & BLF have been directed by Debbie Rao, but The Office fails to connect and convince the audience.

Season 1 of The Office US wasn’t spectacular either, but it got better subsequently. I do hope The Office India does the same, provided they just use the broad strokes of the franchise plot and come up with a lot more original jokes & more relevant character arcs.

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