Movie Rated

The official Indian adaptation of the American sitcom The Office reminds us of the early Doordarshan Days in the 90s where it explored uncanny equations between subordinates and bosses in government offices. Simplicity and slice-of-life humour were ingrained in them that they needn't make an effort to create an amiable atmosphere. The world that this series inhabits too is similar to the soaps produced in the glorious era of Indian television even when the term sitcom was probably alien to television spectators. No, this isn't to suggest that, The Office has that old-world charm. What I mean to say is that it's stuck in a time warp of sorts. At the same, it tries to bring in a plethora of modern-day issues minus any effort to get into the nuances. As they say in Hindi, it turns out to be, 'Naa ghar ka, Naa ghaat ka.' The series attempts to address every modern-day complication prevalent in the corporate sector, but without the renewed understanding of intra-office dynamics, colleague-interactions, the backdrops, the pressures, and the official conversations. Even for someone who hasn't watched the original, this adaptation is a near-terrifying experience spanning 5 painstaking hours. Jagdeep Chaddha, a character played by Mukul Chaddha, headlines this series that will be remembered more for its eccentricities, awkwardness than its quirks. It tries to be real and understated at one end but switches to below-the-belt OTT humour out of the blues. The tone of the series is inconsistent while most of the characters don't have real-life parallels. It's hard to imagine a corporate office where a 40-year-old is busy watching porn on the computer, a middle-aged woman is only knitting wool, a 50-year-old is chiding a youngster for barging into his workspace and the receptionist is confused in choosing between the salesman and the man she's engaged to, as a partner. Make no mistake, the series has a gamut of diverse characters. It's just that they are stuck in a wrong timeline; when is it that we see corporate employees play antakshari, kushti or kabaddi in between work? Though this series tries to bring in issues like sexual harassment, downsizing, cultural appropriation/intolerance, body shaming and slut shaming into the picture, it isn't sincere in dealing with them. It merely ticks every box that the writer thinks is contemporary and doesn't know how to make it an integral part of the story. In fact, even with the sarcastic tone of the series, we don't understand if it's mocking at these issues and saying that it's okay to move on(?). Here's a boss who calls his receptionist, 'Pammi, mere bacche ki mummy' and his subordinate as 'chinky, Chinese and north-east' and gets away with it. All that his higher officials ask him to do is 'be sensitive'. Mukul Chadda's performance adds up to the confusion. He's neither funny nor serious about what he does. Though he plays the unfunny boss that everyone likes to dislike in the office, there's something that Mukul could have done to make it more relatable or strike a chord. At the end of the show, the writers normalise his creepy behaviour, making matters worse. The discomfort of the viewer is probably shown throws the eyes of an intern, who has to bear all the bizarreness of this workspace to progress in his career. The characterisation of the subordinates is far-fetched and shows the little research that the makers have done to adapt the series in an Indian context. Why would any woman or a man, who's being subjected to such loose comments from his/her boss, vile office atmosphere even continue to work at such a place? The ever-growing attrition rate in top companies is something that the series doesn't bother to take note of. And the corporate structure doesn't even give time to its employees to breathe, so where in the world do these employees have time for everything beyond work? The writer must know better. The closest that the series feels likeable is the thread between Amit and the receptionist Pammi. They both know they like each other, enjoy each other's company, but neither takes the first step forward in the relationship. The mystery in their equation ensures some cute, heartfelt conversations that are actually funnier than the sequences positioned as 'comedy'. Gauhar Khan appears very well-cast in the shoes of the corporate honcho, she gets the authority, the body language so right for the role. The struggle of a boss in choosing an employee who needs to be given a pink slip is also elaborated reasonably well. The inconsistencies in the series can also be attributed to the three directors at the helm, Rohan Sippy, Debbie Rao, and Vivek Bhushan. Maybe one director with a better understanding of the Indian work culture, the slice-of-life humour in the employee talks, could have come up with something more coherent? Basing itself in the 90s era could have made a world of difference to the impact of the series, where the leisureliness and slow-paced lives of its characters would have stayed in tune with the timeline. Most of the characters as of now are half-baked and certainly, there's nothing much to wait for in the second season of The Office.

Rating: 1.5/5

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