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Office Office — Rajiv Mehra’s 2001 satire on the common Indian that gave everyone a chuckle

While helplessness of the show's protagonist Mussadilal against the Indian bureaucracy elicited laughter, it also acted as a social commentary on the failures of society.

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New Delhi: Indian sitcom Office Office, which premiered on SAB TV in 2001, was arguably one of the most popular television series of its time. Starring Pankaj Kapur as Mussadilal, the show was a satirical take on corruption in India.

This iconic show was widely popular among Indians, with an IMDB rating of 8.9/10 and winner of the RAPA Awards in 2001 and 2002 for ‘Best Comedy’.

Film director and producer Rajiv Mehra brought each of the characters to life through the lens of comedy, and focussed on the daily frustrations of the common Indian. Each character had its unique personality and quick back-and-forth exchanges that were sprinkled with rib-tickling punch lines.

Akansha, a 29-year-old from Bengaluru, said, “Office Office is really close to my heart since it is one of the shows I used to watch with my entire family in front of our television set. I remember Pankaj Kapur as Mussaddilal was phenomenal. That was my earliest exposure to Pankaj Kapur’s work. I became a fan after that.”

We all remember ‘Bhatia’ and his endless plates of samosas, played by Manoj Pahwa, or Sanjay Mishra as ‘Shukla’, who was defined by his characteristic habit of paan-spitting inside the office premises. Shukla was also someone who acted as an intermediary between people at the top and the common public.

But it was Kapur as ‘Mussadilal’ who was undoubtedly the heart of the series. His frequent nervousness interfused with a jittery demeanor set him apart from the others.

The show’s setting was made of the stuff of 90’s and early 2000’s — with bulky office equipment, landline telephones, fax machines and bundles of files. A lesser-known fact is that the show’s success had led to the creation of a sequel titled Naya Office Office that launched on the Star One channel in 2007.

In the year 2011, a film adaptation titled Chala Mussaddi…Office Office was also released but it did not do well at the box office. The show also made a comeback during the Covid-induced lockdown in 2020 and received a fairly good response. It portrayed Kapur in the role of the ‘common person’ who is stuck in the endless loop of corruption at government offices.

Also read: Flop Show — Jaspal Bhatti’s 1989 satire spared no one, and the common Indian loved it

Office Office was not ‘just for laughs’

Indian viewers related easily to the trouble-struck character of Mussadilal. The short one-standing episodes, with strong screenplay and power pact performances, broke away from the monotony of the daily soaps that followed longer storylines.

While the cast in Office Office remained the same, they frequently took on different roles, making it all the more fun to watch.

Office Office exposed the deep-rooted corruption and red tapism at government workspaces. The characters who played the role of government employees were either portrayed as slacking in their jobs or hard bent on taking advantage of the helplessness of the common person.

Mussadilal’s character and morals are ‘tested’ at frequent intervals, as he faced bureaucracy.

Mussadilal was no hero

Kapur, already a star actor at the time, brought Mussadilal’s character to life like no other. His simple clothes, helpless expression, and growing frustration made him relatable to the ordinary Indian viewer. Unlike Bollywood representations, Office Office did not portray a hero. Mussadilal never wins. More or less every episode ends with his despair at things not working out for him, despite his best efforts.

Mussadilal’s failures were portrayed humorously but they also acted as a social commentary on the defeat of the many Mussadilals around us, those that are battling corruption and injustice every day. The show became a microcosm of the larger world.

Office Office was created over two decades ago but the themes it explored and the social commentary it provided are still relevant. The character of Mussadilal is forever etched as one of the most standout performances by Kapur.

The sitcom is bound to surprise and get one hooked — a funny office drama that paints a picture of the world that is all too real.

Also read: Marbels – fruity candies everyone loved in the early 2000s which mysteriously disappeared


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