I’m going to be honest. When someone first told me that there’s going to be an Indian version of ‘The Office’, I wasn’t too pleased. Saddened too, maybe. And like my own, there were apprehensions of thousands of others from around the country as to how good a show this will actually turn out to be. Not many times in the past have Indian remakes done justice to the US or UK originals, so the worries are understandable.
The Office has become an iconic show over the years, beginning with the Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant-created British series that first aired in July 2001 on BBC. Then followed the US version that ran on NBC first in 2005 and the love showered on this show ensured that it went on for 200+ episodes until it was last taken off air in 2013. This too happened because some of the lead roles had big screen commitments.
How does one match up to expectations created by these popular shows? How can the notorious role of Michael Scott, the boss of Dunder Mifflin Paper Company (here Wilkins Chawla), be enacted as well as Steve Carell did it? Will the Jim-Pam love story be displayed with as many emotions as the US version portrayed? Tens of thousands of us are waiting for answers to these questions…
I’m personally going to give it a chance. Let’s stop drawing conclusions and wait for the official release of ‘The Office‘, which goes live on Hotstar in India on 28th June 2019. The mockumentary sitcom focusses around life in an office set-up and as per the trailers and characters, the story line is set to be similar to the originals. The lead role of the ‘idiotic’ boss will be played by Mukul Chadda and he seems unperturbed by some of the pre-release criticism received.
Created by Rohan Sippy, Debbie Rao, and Vivek ‘Bumpy’ Bhushan, the Indian version has a fun star cast and that’s something to look forward to. Apart from Chadda, TVF Pitchers’ Gopal Dutt is also a part of the show, while the very famous Gauhar Khan will also have a major role in the series, playing the boss of the boss, much like the role that Jan Levinson-Gould played in the US version. Could there be an affair scripted between Chadda and Khan?
Mumbai-based Gavin CHubBy Methalaka is also a part of the cast, having done movies like Katti Batti and Waiting in the past, while also being a part of the Amazon Prime special series called Breathe. Methalaka plays the role of a happy accountant who keeps to himself and his department. This character called Kevin Malone was successfully portrayed by Brian Baumgartner in the US adaptation.
Read Scoops reached out to the star cast of this series and had a word with each of them individually before The Office released. Methalaka plays a South Indian character in the series called T.K. Kutty and he told us that he naturally fitted into the role. Loving the hugs and being a little ‘creepy’ himself, Methalaka told us there’s a lot to relate between Kevin Malone, TK Kutty and himself. He recounted his journey right from the start, when he auditioned way back in February 2018:
“When I was called for an audition for this show, it was one of those ‘Are You Serious?’ kind of moments for me. It was an audition for The Office and I had to give it, regardless of whether I would get it, especially since there were a number of senior artists also in contention for the role. Eventually though, I was selected and was one of the first people to be cast for the show. It was a sudden dream come true for me. The first faces that popped into my mind where Ricky Gervais and Steve Carell and I’m a massive fan of their work in the industry. It feels super massive to be a part of this show.”
He spoke about the public insecurities regarding the Indian remake of the show, saying, “The shows stands on its individuality. It’s an adaptation and not a cut-to-cut copy. When the American show was first announced, people who loved the British show had the similar insecurities and yet, that US-show did so well. Today, The Office has 10 adaptations around the world. There will be awkwardness at the start, but people may likely end up loving it in time. This show is more relatable to the Indian audiences, dealing with a lot of similar characters that the common man come across daily in his/her office.”
We asked Methalaka to draw similarities between TK Kutty and Kevin Malone and also about the experience through the shoot of The Office. He said, “Malone and Kutty are both big in size, we love hugging and love food, and that’s me in real life too. Gavin shares a lot of similarities with these characters. As for the shoot, I’ve had a lot of fun overall, especially in my accounts corner called the ‘fun corner’. Along with the whole cast, I’ve spent a lot of time with my accounts co-stars and it was also fun working with Mukul Chadda, who I’ve been working with since the last 5 years now. The show will feature a surprise character called ‘Badhoria’ and he’s going to be someone you will love!”
Haven’t watch the trailer of ‘The Office’ yet? See now:
Remember Jim and Pam from the US adaptation? Well, Pam becomes Pammi in the Indian version and the role of the receptionist here will be played by Samridhi Dewan. Read Scoops got in touch with her too and asked her what it felt like to be a part of a show that has won hearts all over the world in the last 15 years and more. She said, “It’s unbelievable! I feel very lucky! I’m aware of the risks we run, getting major hate off the trailer, but I hope that will change once the show is out. But I also know that you can never please everyone. When I got the part, I’d only seen a couple of episodes of The Office USA for the audition process, only to understand the format. But I could immediately tell that Pam brings a lot to the show and will be a very well rounded character to play. I was elated I got to be Pammi.”
Considering it has been over a year since shooting began, we asked Dewan to recount the journey, now that we’re hours away from the release on Hotstar. “I auditioned 3 rounds. Monologue, scene and a monologue and then a chemistry test with the possible ‘Amits’. It was a long shot. A lot of well established actors were being considered and I remember thinking to myself, ‘You probably wont get this. Just have fun in the audition.’ When I got the part, I cried like a baby with mum on the phone. It definitely was a huge deal. After getting the part, we did a 10-day ensemble workshop which was very helpful and made us very thick as a group. The shoot was tight schedules and less sleep but we had fun anyway. We are still very thick and meet very often. It has become a family. It’s been a year since shoot ended. Now, it feels like we finally get to see what we made. And I’m nervous as I feel it’ll be watching me from 1 year ago, but we’re very, very excited.”
Drawing similarities between Pammi and Pam from the US adaptation, Dewan said, “The story is similar but the social context makes all the difference. Pammi has different pressures; family and society play into that a lot. She may be a more perturbed Pam. Maybe a bit more restless, maybe even darker. Then again, that’s me judging before I’ve watched the show. I tried to work on language, on body language, on character history at first. Then, on relationships with people in the office. I made stories about Pammi’s family in my mind, to figure out what sort of baggage she brings in to The Office. It helps that I’m from Delhi, so I understand the culture. I also hunted down a few Goyal friends to just ask about their families to help build a history. It was all a lot of fun!”
One of the biggest roles in The Office is that of Amit’s. If the story line is the same, Pammi and Amit will be romantically involved in the show. Based on Jim Halpert from the US adaptation, the character takes sarcasm to the next level and is a natural prankster. Here, he will be played by Sayandeep Sengupta and we had a quick word with this actor as well, who had only done commercials and a short role in a web show previously. The Office thus has to be the biggest break of his career so far!
He also commented on his entire experience so far and about the privilege of being cast in such an iconic sitcom, saying, “It feels great. Honestly, I didn’t know about the show when I initially auditioned for it. The casting director Kavish asked me to watch a particular episode to understand the show. It’s a difficult set up as the camera itself is a character in the show, and you have to talk to the camera throughout. He wanted me to understand that. When I got the part and began shooting is when I realized that I’m a part of a big franchise, and I’m playing one of the most loved characters – Jim Halpert. I’m happy I didn’t know about the show when I went to audition as I would’ve probably gone with some baggage. But now, it feels great to be a part of it and feels blessed to have got such an important role.”
“This was a very enriching journey for me as an actor. Nothing ‘big’ had happened in my career before The Office. Once this began, we got into workshops together for around 10-15 days and would meet and gel with each other almost day. The format of the show is such that we needed to have fun ourselves if we wanted it to be made well. The schedule was crazy and we were shooting almost every day. After 7-8 days, we’d get a break day but even then, we’d sit together and do readings for upcoming episodes. Everyone gave their 100% especially since most of the cast is new. You always want to put your heart into your first project.”
The release is finally here, a year and a half since auditions began and quite a few months since the shoot ended. Commenting on this Sengupta said, “I’m happy but I’m also very nervous because it’s such a big show. Honestly, I’m shitting bricks. I know that people weren’t liking the trailer and there are mixed emotions, because I’m constantly thinking about whether people will like it or not. There are people who have given us hate but I feel good about it because these are the guys who have loved the US show. It’s an official adaptation and the creators are the same, so it isn’t some random ‘copy’. All the humour and the characters are completely Indian, and very relatable. It’s not an office, but a ‘daftar’ to be honest. All I want to say to everyone is just watch the show and then give us your verdict. If there are faults after watching, that’s where we can make changes and actually improve.”
We’ve left the best for last. Let’s come to the role of the Michael Scott which was played to perfection by Steve Carell. This was a role which proved to be a major impetus to his acting career as well. The Indian remake will see Mukul Chadda playing Jagdeep Chaddha as the boss of the office, who’s not a Punjabi but a self-proclaimed ‘Funjabi’. His antics are to watch out for and if Chadda manages to nail this role, we could very well be in for an exciting few episodes of The Office.
Read Scoops didn’t fail to reach out to Chadda to get his views on The Office. He said, “I’m very excited and I’m looking forward to the show. It has been humbling to get the opportunity to play not just the lead role but such a humourous character. I watched a few episodes while auditioning and realized what a wonderful character ‘Michael Scott’ is which made me very excited to play the role. It’s a difficult and challenging character but I had immense fun playing the character. I’m eternally grateful for this opportunity and I hope that people will like what I’ve done.”
We asked Chadda about his role itself and how he inspired himself to get into the character. He said, “It’s difficult to condense an entire process into a short answer. However, Steve Carell did a brilliant job and one of the things that struck me is that through all his nonsensical dialogues, Carell was very convincing while saying and doing the things he did. You always have to sound believable when you’re an actor but it’s a little harder in this case since you’re doing zany and crazy things.”
We didn’t bother Chadda with the public criticism on the series. Instead we asked him whether he had any of his own apprehensions as we reach the release of the show. He said, “Obviously when you make any show, you don’t know how it turns out or how people will receive it. You’re obviously not the best judge of your own work either. In my case, there are a few people whose views I respect and that’s how it works for me. You see it and give me feedback on it. Maybe there are some apprehensions thinking about what people may say. I know there’s criticism but I just hope people will watch it with an open mind. Also, you need to watch a few episodes to understand these characters and the flavour of the show before judging it. Comparisons are inevitable but you should treat it as a show by itself before creating a judgment.”
The cast was kind enough to take out some time and talk to us regarding the Indian adaptation of this much-loved TV series. The Office is finally here and on behalf of the complete team at Read Scoops, I would like to wish the entire cast and behind-the-scenes crew the best of luck for the show. Hopefully, we’ll get to see these guys on bigger platforms in the near future as well!
– Dwayne Fernandes, Read Scoops