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‘Karamchand’ — detective series with a carrot-munching sleuth who made investigation look cool

Launched on Doordarshan in 1985, the show starred actors Pankaj Kapur and Sushmita Mukherjee as the lead characters. It was written by Sudhir Mishra.

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New Delhi: Starring actors Pankaj Kapur, Sushmita Mukherjee and Archana Puran Singh, Karamchand was one of the first and iconic detective series that was aired on Indian television.

Launched on Doordarshan in 1985, the show was produced by Pankaj Parashar and Alyque Padamsee, and written by Sudhir Mishra. The music and title track for the series were composed by the famous duo Anand-Milind Shrivastav.

The series garnered a massive fan following soon after its launch and went on to become one of the cult classics.

Kapur, who played the title role of the witty carrot-munching detective ‘Karamchand’, had received his theater training from the National School of Drama in Delhi. He was initially hesitant to do the television show. But it ended up being a huge success and brought Kapur recognition as well as appreciation from critics.

Kapur, with his dark glasses and eccentric investigation skills, breathed life into Karamchand’s character.

The series follows the lives of detective ‘Karamchand’ and his assistant ‘Kitty’ (played by Mukherjee) as they help the police solve murder, robbery and other crime mysteries.

“People loved his style. Karamchand halwa and carrots sold like hot cakes. Dark glasses were sold with his name written on them,” Kapur said in an interview with Hindustan Times.

Also read: ‘Shararat’ — the sitcom Indian kids tuned to for daily dose of magic before Harry Potter

Pop culture references

Such has been the cult status of this show that its popularity has not waned even after three decades. One of the lead characters in the hit American sitcom The Big Bang Theory, Raj Koothrapali (played by Indian actor Kunal Nayyar), makes a mention about ‘Karamchand’ in Season 11.

Karamchand’s constant banter with his assistant Kitty were also quite enjoyable and popular among viewers. One of Kitty’s quips, where she says “Sir, you are a genius” and Karamchand’s revert saying “Shut up, Kitty” went on to become cult dialogues.

Accidental cast and a shaky start

While both lead actors went on to become popular for their performances in the show, Kapur was not director Parashar’s first choice. It was actor Alok Nath who played the titular role for the show’s pilot episode. But a tiff between Parashar and Nath later facilitated Kapur’s entry in the show.

The first few episodes of this detective series were, however, a disaster. People found the new concept, with “flying cameras and an out-of-the-box idea”, hard to stomach.

In an interview to Forbes, Parashar described how Kapur had broken down and even wondered if his decision to work on the series was wrong.

Audiences, however, soon learnt to love Karamchand and Kitty’s antics, and many film industry veterans showered their praise for the show. “The likes of Dev Anand and Dilip Kumar appreciated our efforts. Manoj Kumar was very supportive, Kamal Haasan would call and Kishore Kumar said he wanted to work with me. Saeed Mirza said you have created history,” Parashar, who went on to direct films like Jalwa and Chaalbaaz, has been quoted as saying by Forbes. 

Season 1 of the show was a delightful mix of comedy and logic. Unlike most other detective series, the protagonist in Karamchand doesn’t rely on high-tech gadgets or forensics to solve cases. Instead his approach consists more of quirky deductions and at times a stroke of luck too.

Season 2 and why it failed

The trendsetter series made a comeback after 20 years when it was aired on Sony in 2007. But it failed to live up to audience’s expectations. The show had lost its charm, and Sucheta Khanna replaced Mukherjee as Kitty.

Karmachand had nothing but nostalgia going for it — and that wasn’t enough.

The second season was discontinued after a few initial episodes and did not complete its full run. Nonetheless, the show remains in the hearts of thousands of viewers as one of the best detective series the 80s had to offer.

Also read: Radio Ceylon — the Sri Lankan channel India turned to when AIR banned film music in 1952


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