Hotstar is now streaming an Indian adaptation of the mega-popular sitcom, ‘The Office’. The American sitcom, which had nine seasons, was based on a popular BBC series also called The Office. A German, Canadian and Chilean version of the same TV show also exist.
ThePrint asks: ‘The Office’ Hindi version: Can Hotstar pull off a successful adaptation of the mega show?
Dismissal of Indian Office has less to do with nostalgia for US version, and more with elitist mindset
Instinctively the answer is no, but I think it’s important to unpack this instinct. The Office (US) is a big part of my pop culture lexicon — through it I was exposed to the potential of mockumentaries, learnt that workspaces can be eccentric and unpredictable, and grew to accommodate mixed feelings of annoyance and affection for nuanced characters.
However, I suspect an outright dismissal of the Indian version has less to do with our nostalgic reverence for the American version, and more to do with an elitist, English-speaking rejection of ‘desi-fication.’ We believe, perhaps rightly based on the standard of Indian television serials, that Hotstar just won’t be able to pull this off. At best, the Indian version will be a cringe-worthy, contextless recreation of its more civilised, cool and intelligent Western counterpart. But we must remember that even the American version is based on the British one, and just because white people are making something doesn’t make it better.
Urban offices exist in India too, and Hotstar must remember that. The show can be successful if it strives to accommodate the specific realities of this diverse subcontinent. We can borrow the framework for jokes, but the punchline must be ours.
Only time will tell if Indian ‘The Office’ will be a success — even US version tanked in the first season
Senior web editor, ThePrint
The Indian sense of humour is still dominated by Bollywood films, where crass jokes on women, fat shaming, and mocking the disabled (like Golmaal and it’s ilk) is termed ‘funny’. The Office, on the other hand, is a pop-culture phenomenon. It was the show that introduced the genre of awkward comedy to the masses. It helped shift that genre from niche to mainstream, and gave rise to a whole bunch of other popular shows like Parks and Recreation. To mimic its success will be very difficult, especially in the Indian context.
For the Indian reboot to work, it has to convince Indian audiences that subtlety holds substance, which is something parallel cinema has been trying to do for years now. It is only in the last couple of years have we seen any remarkable change in content. Also, aping the genius acting of the American and UK cast, will be a near-impossible feat. Only time can tell if it will be a success, because even the US version tanked in the first season. But for that, we have to change our definition of funny.
India has already done ‘The Office’, it was called ‘Better Life Foundation’ & it was on Hotstar
Not many people know but India has already tried its version of the ever-popular The Office. It was called Better Life Foundation and the first season was streamed on YouTube. It was mildly successful, but better than a scene-to-scene copy of The Office because it had very Indian content — complete with office politics, unpaid internships, bureaucratic hurdles and a chaotic media. It was a mockumentary with the same eye-to-camera shots and wry humour.
The second season of Better Life Foundation was streamed on Hotstar. But the platform decided to take it down after multiple sexual harassment allegations against Utsav Chakraborty, a comedian and a lead actor in the series.
Perhaps Hotstar thinks this desi copy of the US and British show will be better. However, if just reproducing it is the idea without much alterations, it isn’t working well. The few snippets I managed to see of the Hindi version were nothing extraordinary, the plot barely holding together the forced characters and the forced jokes. There can only be one Steve Carell and one Dunder Mifflin Paper Company.
In that sense, Better Life Foundation was much better. At least it tried to do something new, even though it was in the same genre.
I saw three episodes of Hotstar’s ‘The Office’, without a laugh or a chuckle
Senior copy editor, ThePrint
The Office has a very simple, authentic and universal premise. This universality allows the show to be moulded into any cultural setting, giving each version its distinct flavour. That is how you can distinguish the British version from the American, or now the Indian version from the rest.
But whether or not the people at Wilkins Chawla, a fictional paper company used as a setting for Hotstar’s The Office, will excite you enough over the course of 13 episodes is a matter of personal taste and opinion. I saw three episodes, without a laugh. Or, a chuckle. I don’t expect to roll on the floor, but I do want to be amused, just enough to care about what happens to the characters.
The Office will likely divide opinions and may even ignite a few debates. What it doesn’t seem likely to achieve, from my limited viewing of it, is a status where its lines are recounted for fun, or its everyday characters are remembered and celebrated by everyday people. (Remember Mussadilal from Office Office?)
There’s hardly any element of surprise in The Office because you can easily guess what the characters are going to say even before they say it.
Hotstar’s ‘The Office’ can be a success if characters & plotline take advantage of India’s diversity
The Office’s characters can easily be adapted to suit various cultures – including Indian. In fact, an Indian version of The Office holds endless comic potential given the various stereotypes attached to different communities. Indian people have their own set of idiosyncrasies, and there’s no dearth of writing material. The catch, however, lies in the comedy itself.
The Office’s mocumentary style coupled with its awkward humour is a departure from most comedy TV shows, and a far cry from Indian TV serials. It takes a while to get used to The Office’s brand of humour. For Hotstar, running a show like this could be a big risk since the audience for a show like this – if there is one – is very niche. But Hotstar subscriber base may already include several The Office fans who would be curious to see how the Indian version pans out.
It’s a risk worth taking since the show offers viewers more variety in terms of Hindi comedy shows. Hotstar could very well pull it off if the characters and plotline take advantage of India’s diversity.
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