Everybody loves Raymond, but everybody doesn't love 'Sumit Sambhal Lega', at least not yet
For a remake of Everyone Loves Raymond, the dialogues in Sumit Sambhal Lega are neither particularly funny nor sparkling.
For the past few nights, I’ve been watching a programme on Star Plus called Sumit Sambhal Lega, which is the official, Indian adaptation of the American series, Everybody Loves Raymond. Breaking Indian film, music and TV’s norm, Star Plus decided to not just be “inspired” by Everybody Loves Raymond. Steve Skroyan, the screenwriter of Everybody Love Raymond has been hired to oversee the creative process on the show. Star Plus has actually bought the rights and adapted it to India. So kudos for that. I can just feel Vikram Bhatt, Pritam and Anu Malik rolling their eyes at this naïve attitude to creative content.
I’ve watched every episode of Everybody Loves Raymond and have been a big fan of the two lead characters, Ray and Debra. It’s a sitcom from the Nineties and it ran for nine seasons, becoming a cult classic. Everybody Loves Raymond was a grown-up version of Full House, minus the slapstick comedy. Debra, a stay-at-home mother was hot and funny and very tolerant of her husband’s foibles. Ray was a sportswriter, hilarious and a pipsqueak (in front of his mother). Believable characters, realistic situations, intelligent humour — Everybody Loves Raymond had it all.
The show revolved around a family: a husband, wife and their adorable twin sons and little daughter. They live across the road from the husband’s Italian parents and brother. The in-laws made our interfering Indian families seem like paradise. There was a possessive mother (Marie) and she naturally had run-ins with her daughter-in-law, Debra. Raymond had to maintain a fine balance between the two. It was hilarious, as non-dramatic as possible, and very real. Over the nine seasons, you saw everyone (including the kids) on the show grow older.
As might be obvious, this setup lends itself very well to the Indian milieu where living with or next door to our parents or in-laws is simply the way we’ve been brought up. Having them know and be involved in every intimate detail of their son’s or daughter’s daily married life is just par for the course. The love-hate relationship between a mother-in-law and daughter-in-law, seeing a man transform from husband into a little kid as soon as he spots his mother — this is de rigueur for so many of us.
So now that Star Plus had been handed a winner on a platter, what will they do with it? For one, they've cast someone in the lead who looks alarmingly like Arvind Kejriwal. Namit Das, the desi Ray, is sweet as Sumit. However, three episodes in, he hasn’t displayed the spunk that Ray had in the series. Maybe he’ll warm into the role over time.
Sumit has a wife, who is attractive and sweet but given to over-acting. They’ve brought the kid count down to two, by killing off one of the twins. Sumit’s parents are played by Bharati Achrekar and Satish Kaushik. They don’t live across the street, but on the ground floor of the same bungalow. His brother, like Ray’s, is a cop. Even the opening credits of the show are the same.
The desi characters are nice, but so far, you just don’t care for them. Possibly because you don't know enough to care about them. Ray’s job used to play a large part in the English sitcom's storyline. The fact that he was a sports writer and made his job seem like the most important job in the world – as opposed to Debra’s 'non-job' of being a housewife and mother –was an important element and you'd think it would be relevant for us in India too. But no.
We don’t know what work Sumit does. Is he a detective? Is he a bartender? A car salesman? It’s anybody’s guess. I’m guessing his wife is a stay-at-home mom as well, not that this has been clarified. The only person whose work we know something of is the brother who is a cop and takes a bath as soon as he returns from work. Also, there doesn’t seem to be much of a plot for each episode. This isn't a huge stumbling block since most sitcoms are more about dialogues than plot. But in Sumit Sambhal Lega, the dialogues are neither particularly funny nor sparkling.
Everybody Loves Raymond or Full House or FRIENDS are great examples of how American television writing grabs your attention from the very first scene with its writing. Unfortunately, the emphasis in India appears to be on the packaging instead of the writing. Since Everybody Loves Raymond drew heavily from actor Ray Romano and the show’s producer Phil Rosenthal’s own lives, Das is giving interviews that claim the show is close to his real life. Once he got married, Das apparently had a “Raymond-like situation”, with parents who lived two buildings away and a wife who confessed she could not cook. “I had a Birdman moment, where I was unable to separate the real from the reel. Now, are you ready to see what I go through every day?” said Das.
I do hope Das’s house is better decorated than the one on the show, because it looks like the Asian Paints boy threw up all over the sets of Sumit Sambhal Lega. I’d be quite hysterical if I had to go through looking at those walls every day.
In the second episode of Sumit Sambhal Lega, we get the Indian version of Marie giving Debra her spaghetti recipe but leaving out a key ingredient. Spaghetti became rajma, a.k.a. the caviar of Delhi. The third episode began with some fake kissing and revolved around Sumit’s inability to say “I love you”. Not gripping stuff, this. To be fair, neither is Everybody Loves Raymond, but you get drawn to the show because of the hilarious repartee and dialogues, the banter between characters and the very believable reactions. Nothing was over-the-top or seemed illogical.
Currently, Indian TV’s Arvind Kejriwal and his family are not really tickling this writer’s funny bone. After all, I don’t see the humour in Comedy Nights With Kapil either, which (given its ratings) means I obviously know nothing. It would be nice though, if for Sumit Sambhal Lega, they repaint the sets, write funnier lines and get rid of the over-acting. We just may have an enjoyable, non-saas bahu sitcom on our hands.
You can watch Sumit Sambhal Lega on Star Plus on weekdays at 10pm.