As you can probably tell, I’ve been looking forward to Anil Kapoor‘s 24, if only so that we could have a fictional television show that’s a breather from all the saas-bahu type drama that’s almost force-fed to us every day. The first two episodes aired over this weekend, and so far, I’ve liked it – there may be a few things that don’t sit right, but for the most part, the show has managed to impress. I haven’t seen the original American version, so I don’t have a “reference point” per se, but I’m glad about that; I’d rather take this one for what it is rather than constantly draw comparisons. After watching the episodes this weekend, I came away with a few thoughts, and I’m sharing them with you.
1. It’s definitely different. I don’t know if “gamechanger” is the word I want to use just yet, since it’ll take a lot more than one show to change the way we consume television programming. However, if it does well – and the initial response is positive – then it’ll send out a clear message that programming like this can work. Hopefully, that’ll inspire more people to think beyond the usual when it comes to our television shows.
2. It’s slickly edited, even though it can’t be easy to edit a show like this where parallel stories are running side-by-side and events are supposed to be occurring in real-time. (Each hour-long episode – ads included – is one hour in the life of the characters.) For me, the back-and-forth works, but I have heard complaints that having a few stories run in parallel is distracting. So I suppose it depends on what you like!
3. There’s a bit of a Bollywood hangover. Some of the dialogues are pretty bad, in a “do people really talk like that?” kind of way. I’m getting a Bollywood vibe from these lines, which makes sense since the dialogue-writers are used to working on films, some of which are of the OTT variety. The issue is that this isn’t an Akshay Kumar film, so these dialogues stick out like a sore thumb. Also, during one scene in the second episode, a character spouts off: “plastic surgery bhi kya cheez hai” which is groan-worthy because the whole plastic surgery deal is such a Bollywood trope. (From a bit of Googling I can tell that the plastic surgery angle was used in the American TV show as well, so “they’re just adapting it” is a fair enough defence. However, as someone who hasn’t seen the original, this was my first impression.)
4. They have “Indianised” it. Beyond the very obvious comparison to the Gandhi family, the writers have definitely adapted their story to an Indian audience by weaving in real-life incidents. In the first episode, for example, they referenced the very real 26/11 Mumbai attacks as the reason behind the formation of the ATU. Besides that, they’ve also included a fair share of family drama to appeal to the regular television-watching audience. This can go either way, really: it’d be a shame if the family drama took away from the action, but on the other hand, I feel like a little of it is at least required since that’s what appeals to us most. And if the point here is to reach a wider audience, which it will need to in order to really succeed, then adapting it in such a manner is probably the way to go.
5. Some of it feels gimmicky. I understand needing action and a fast pace, but my impression after these two episodes is that the makers are almost deliberately cramming in incidents to add shock value. Things like Jai Singh Rathod injecting his boss with a “deadly” substance, or the kidnapper slamming the car door on his captive’s knuckles, feel like they were included with the express purpose of eliciting a response.
6. It’s well-cast. I’m happy with the main star-cast, at least: Anil Kapoor, Mandira Bedi, Tisca Chopra, Neil Bhoopalam seem to fit with their characters well, and have managed to impress so far. There’s no way for me to compare them with their American counterparts, so those of you who have seen the original show may feel differently, but I’m satisfied with the choices.
7. Anil Kapoor isn’t the star. He’s got the main lead, but he’s not hogging screen-space. This could have easily become an ego-trip for the actor and an avenue for him to go all “superstar” on us, but so far, everything seems well-balanced. Other characters and stories (that don’t immediately involve him) are given time to develop, which is important – especially since they seem to have a talented ensemble cast.
Overall, while I’m not absolutely bowled over by 24, I am sufficiently interested and will keep watching. The initial audience response is great, but I think a fair share of it can be attributed to the novelty factor – in which case, the show will really need to impress in the forthcoming episodes in order to keep everyone hooked. I remain optimistic; I think that even at its worst, the show will remain fairly watchable… but of course, I’m hoping for so much more.
What are your thoughts on India’s 24?
With inputs from Dhruvi Shah.