If 24 India works, channels may consider adapting more foreign shows

In an industry where dramatic arcs consist of confrontations with villainous mothers in law, and a good ending is a 20 year-time-leap, 24 is the straw I grasp for dear life.

hidden October 14, 2013 16:32:16 IST
If 24 India works, channels may consider adapting more foreign shows

By Rohan Joshi

Death! Kidnapping! An authoritarian bald man!

Things got interesting on 24 India this week. Jai Singh Rathore realized his daughter’s kidnapping may be part of a larger mess, Aditya Singhania considered chucking the PM’s seat for honour, and someone at Tata got thrown off a roof when they realized Jai Singh Rathore drives around in a Mahindra XUV 500 on a show sponsored by Safari Storme.

Last week’s episodes took away some of my misgivings about the Indian adaptation, and deepened others. Adhir Bhatt’s Tej/Tony Almeida is growing on me after my initial annoyance with his take on the character. I also (SPOILER ALERT) suffer the disadvantage of knowing the character’s overall arc in the American version, and forgot just how unlikeable he was at the beginning of the original show’s run (END SPOILER). I’m also warming up to Anil Kapoor’s Jai Singh Rathore. It looks like he’s understood the futility of playing Kiefer Sutherland’s Jack Bauer, so he’s playing it his own way. Kapoor’s Rathore seems quieter, dialled down a notch (not something I ever thought I’d say about an Anil Kapoor performance).

If 24 India works channels may consider adapting more foreign shows

Courtesy: Facebook

So yes, things did get interesting, but the show also lost some of its initial momentum as arcs developed and grey areas of characters got filled in. Given that viewers have five days to wander off and get distracted by other stuff, I wonder if that’s a loss of momentum the show can handle. While 24 opened with decent TRPs, it wasn’t the highest watched show of its debut evening, so it remains to be seen whether its audience will stay.

Which brings me to my biggest problem with the show: the dialogue is still terrible. I understand we’re not going to get Breaking Bad levels of genius and I understand that there’s a section of the audience that needs to be spoonfed details, but even with those limitations accounted for, the dialogue is appalling. And it needs to improve, fast, because 24 is the sort of show whose plot twists and logic-leaps are going to attract a billion eye-rolls without the bad dialogue compounding problems. Sample: "Humaari betiya musibat mein hai" say two concerned parents to a cop at a nakabandi. "Lagta hai betiya maa baap pe gaye hai, kyonki moosibat mein toh tum log bhi ho" replies World's Most Evil Cop to said parents.

And yet, I’m praying that the dialogue does get better and the show does do better, for selfish reasons. Last week, I prayed for better fiction content on Indian TV as a viewer. Today, I’m personally invested in this show, as someone who’s had the misfortune for writing for Indian television in the past. It is the most dispiriting, hopeless job on the planet. You get paid slightly-above-average cash to churn out some of the most mind-numbing, soul-sapping nonsense in the history of all nonsense ever. I’ve seen the light in a friend’s eyes die as clients have missed the point of a smart line, or condemned entire character arcs to the “maybe in future” bin. The non-fiction space is even worse. Your options are clip-show about famous Bollywood hookups or clip-show about famous Bollywood breakups. And there are only so many ways to make an Ajay Devgn name-pun before you break down and write a suicide note.

In an industry where dramatic arcs consist of confrontations with villainous mothers in law, and a good ending is a 20 year-time-leap, 24 is the straw I grasp for dear life. If this does well, channels may consider adapting more foreign shows, or even (dare I dream...) funding original Indian content not aimed squarely at the “bored matriarch” demographic. If audiences are willing to accept new, slightly smarter programming, writers get to apply themselves a bit more, and everybody’s IQ goes up a few notches. So, no pressure 24. No pressure.

(Rohan Joshi is a comedian and a writer. His Twitter handle is @mojorojo.)

Disclaimer: Colors is a part of the Network18 group which also owns Firstpost.

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