New Delhi: More people have walked on the moon than have stormed Takeshi’s Castle, a Japanese game show that originally aired between 1986 and 1990 on Tokyo Broadcasting System.
The show first aired in India in 2005 on Pogo channel, and might have not gained the cult status it did if actor Jaaved Jaaferi wasn’t behind the mic giving a hilarious voice over that left children and adults in splits.
Jaaferi’s voice overs were full of toilet humour, colloquial slangs and made watching someone sheepishly fall flat on their faces — without getting hurt — even funnier than one could ever imagine.
Jaaferi helped make the show relatable to an Indian audience, and his commentary helped give an obscure Japanese show about a count and his henchmen, an Indian connect.
Speaking to ThePrint, the actor said he relied on improvisation to add flavour to his commentary. “I had collaborated with a long-time family friend and my senior, writer Baba Khan, to draw an outline of the script and would fill in the punches and jokes on the spot. Baba would watch the episode and give me his feedback and then I’d watch it and draw up an outline. I would actually record while watching the footage and giving my reactions to the various games on screen,” he told ThePrint.
Jaaferi said he dubbed about 150 episodes of Takeshi’s Castle for Pogo, but wasn’t paid adequately at first. “The pay was very little but the project sounded fun so I took it up. When it did well, I asked for a raise, which wasn’t given. Another guy was roped in for the commentary but it just wasn’t working so the channel approached me again, this time with a raise and I had to redo all the episodes again so they could be aired,” he said.
The gameshow has a cult following across the world and was adapted for local audiences in different countries, including India. In Spain, Takeshi’s Castle is called Humor Amarillo, in Italy, Mai Dire Banzai, and in the US, Most Extreme Elimination Challenge.
“I watched the British version but it was full of adult jokes, couldn’t do that in India since the series was meant for kids. So I just did my own thing,” he said. The British version was voiced by comedian Craig Charles.
Jaaferi still gets praises for his work. “Over the years, I have received so much love for this show. Till today, people say Boogie Woogie and Takeshi’s Castle brightened up their childhood,” he said.
The game and its ‘challenges’
Takeshi’s Castle features Japanese comedian Takeshi Kitano, also known as Beat Takeshi. He plays a count who puts up various obstacles in the path of his challengers who want to take over his castle.
General Tani (in the Indian version he is called General Lee) is another colourful character. A general in a white dress, it is he who commands the contestants and “forces” them to take up the many challenges.
Some of the popular challenges include Boulder Dash (stepping on rolling boulders to reach a destination), Stepping Stones (stones to step on to cross a water body), Honey Comb Maze (contestants have to enter the maze and find the exit) and Rice Bowl Downhill (contestants sit in a giant bowl and are pushed towards a pool at the bottom of a mountain slope).
The finale was called ‘Showdown’ where contestants faced Count Takeshi himself. According to Wiki Fandom, the Showdown’s script has changed over the years. In early episodes, contestants would storm the castle in a short-ranged water gun assault. In later episodes, they would do it on paper tanks and target Takeshi’s castle.
If the contestants’ laser gun or water gun hit Takeshi’s tank, the contestant would win — no easy task this. Unsurprisingly, the show had 8 winners so far — as the prize money at the other end of the castle was one million yen, roughly Rs 6,67,000 today.
In the earlier water gun assault version, all surviving players would split the final money, while in the later version whichever player defeated Takeshi’s tank would take all the money home.
The final episode aired in Japan on 14 April 1989, and was followed by four once-a-week specials until 19 October 1990. Takeshi’s Castle lives on in people’s hearts in India even today.
(Edited by Paramita Ghosh)