CID, ACP Pradyuman, and the popularity of Shivaji Satam: What explains it?

Gautam Chintamani

Dec 21, 2016 13:45:37 IST

“Daya, kuch to gadbad hai.”

You might have heard this line a million times between 1998 and now but chances of hearing the signature line of one of the most popular television characters ACP Pradyuman (Shivaji Satam) from CID, one of India’s longest-running television thrillers, again are slim to none. If Internet rumors were to be believed, then the 26 December episode of the long-running series would show the ACP suffering from a heart attack. It is also believed that the character would succumb and bring the show to an end.

Read: CID's ACP Pradyuman suffers heart attack; actor Shivaji Satam becomes target of death hoax

Although a pilot episode was aired in 1997, CID officially debuted on 21 January 1998, and completed 18 years on air earlier this year. Created by BP Singh, who also writes the show on occasions, CID’s retinue of writers include Rajat Aroraa and Shriram Raghavan besides Christabelle D'souza, Virendra Shahney, Nitika Kanwar, Naila Chogle, and Prabal Baruah to name a few. The long-standing show has captured the fancy of millions of viewers and some of them have dedicatedly followed the show through its nearly two-decade-long run.

CID, ACP Pradyuman, and the popularity of Shivaji Satam: What explains it?

Shivaji Satam — aka ACP Pradyuman of CID — is flanked by his constant companions, Senior Inspector Daya and Senior Inspector Abhijeet

The committed fan following notwithstanding, CID aficionados also never let go of an opportunity to poke fun at the series. So, what is about CID that endeared itself to the viewers? How could it inspire a cult-like following even as it could easily pip even the rambunctious saas-bahu fare when it came to being tacky on television? To put it in the parlance of our times, it would suffice to say that CID had the ‘feel.’

To get an idea of why people got hooked on to CID one needs to know a bit about the people who initially might have caught on to the show. The show debuted in an era that was a kind of ‘middle-ages’ for Indian television. This was a time before saas-bahu took over the imagination, before superstars such as Amitabh Bachchan or Salman Khan descended upon the smaller screen and much before the era of Netflix, torrents and such. But it was also a time when Doordarshan had lost the grip it had on the millions of viewers. For almost half a decade since the advent of satellite television in India in 1992 where Zee TV had for the first time offered a real alternative to the audiences, and yet a certain segment of the viewer did not have a go-to show. CID was a deviation from what was on television and in a way it was trying to replicate the popular police procedural and mystery shows of the early 1990s such as The X-Files or NYPD Blue in an Indian context.

Also read: Five characters on Indian TV who rose from the dead

CID clicked with the people who belonged to the generation that had first experienced the genre on Doordarshan with Karamchand and followed the adventures of a Byomkesh Bakshi (1993) and Sam D’Silva in Tehkikaat (1994). The former created a new kind of television star, perhaps the first-ever authentic TV superstar in the form of Pankaj Kapur, and the latter resurrected a forgotten filmmaker, Vijay Anand, for a newer generation even though Goldie sahab was just acting as the super sleuth. Nestled in between, Byomkesh Bakshi that was directed by Basu Chatterjee had Rajit Kapur playing the character created by Sharadindu Bandyopadhyay and still remains by far the best rendition of a private eye in Indian television. With the ‘believable’ lead in the form of Shivaji Satam, and a supporting cast that included Aditya Srivastava as Senior Inspector Abhijeet and Dayanand Shetty as Senior Inspector Daya, CID was different from the others. It also had a revolving cast that included some familiar faces like Ashutosh Gowariker (who was yet to become a colossus with Lagaan) as Inspector Virendra, Ashwini Kalsekar as Inspector Asha, Tushar Dalvi as Inspector Jayant and later in the early 2000s even Rajeev Khandelwal featured briefly on the show as ACP Prithviraj.

The show might have been tacky but it followed the basic tenets of a whodunit and included classical elements of noir as well as things that were happening in the world. It is a show that began when most Indians did not own a cell-phone and by the time it ends (that is, if it does end) it has not only witnessed a transformation of the nation but also at times included some of the socio-political milestones into the narrative. The more popular the show became, the bigger the habit it became with many. The late night reruns of the show became a staple for those who wanted to indulge in some mindless television till their eyelids drooped. The police detective show somewhere also became a game with people who would try to guess what would happen next. Much like the works of writer Asrar Ahmad, better known as by his pen name ‘Ibn-e-Safi’, whose mystery novels were a rage between the1940s and 1980s, the characters, and one-liners used by them in CID also entered the everyday lexicon. CID’s popularity saw an increase in budget and like Ibn-e-Safi’s Ali Imran, the comical secret agent, CID’s super cops, too, traveled to exotic locations such as Uzbekistan, Paris, and Switzerland to solve a crime. At times, it also tied-up with big budget films where characters from the film came on as special guests like the time Taalash’s (2012) Surjan Singh Sekhawat (Aamir Khan) crossed over and joined ACP Pradyuman on a case.

In a way the show also transformed into its own parody, a sign of the level of popularity it enjoyed. This often overshadows some of the interesting things that the show’s creators did from a technical point of view that pushed the envelope. In 2004, the show set a record where the episode number 111 was filmed in a single shot that lasted 111 minutes, or 1 hour and 51 minutes, and was shot in real time and even telecast without a break.

CID has now become a cultural reference point and everyone who ever saw the show has his or her own memory of Team CID as does this writer. Someone I once knew, who at that point in time was working on CID, had gotten married and at the reception, the entire CID cast was invited. This was in early the 2000s and CID had just broken through. Being a television writer myself, I used to write episodes for a law series called Siddhanth; I had more than a fair idea of just how big CID had become. I reached early and was already nursing a drink at the bar when the Shivaji Satam and Dayanand Shetty walked in. They managed to make it to the bar and ordered a round. Satam as well as Shetty and others had come directly from the shoot and they seemed to still be in character. Satam and yours truly exchanged a glance. What do you do when ACP Pradyuman gives you the look?  I nodded, raised my glass and Satam gave a wry smile. He turned to Daya and I swear he was about to go, ‘Daya, kuch to gadbad hai.’

Updated Date: Dec 21, 2016 13:55:33 IST