Thursday, May 24, 2007

The soggy return of Karamchand

As India’s first TV detective Karamchand used his idiosyncratic genius to look in places that ordinary policemen didn’t care to look. He observed everything and zeroed in on something peculiar – a clue that led him to another, like a series of breadcrumbs. And while he traced those clues, he was able to put together the puzzle and solve the crime. Karamchand, in the popular TV series of the same name which ran from 1985 to 1988, was played with a manic nuttiness by Pankaj Kapur. He gave his detective a number of endearing qualities that made him stand out.

Unlike other crime solvers who we expected to be strait jacketed and projecting intellect, Karamchand instead came across like a loose maverick. He would scratch his ears, cup his chin and wave his hands about as he analyzed and made a point. And yes, he also ate carrots and made snarky remarks with fondness to his assistant Kitty.

The Return of the Detective
The revival of Karamchand has evoked quite a bit of interest on Indian TV lately. A considerably older Pankaj Kapur essays the same titular role and although he seems to fit back into it quite easily, he tones down Karamchand a bit. While this is a smart move for an actor of his ripeness, it robs the character of much of his playfulness.

Kitty is now played by a much younger replacement – Sucheta Khanna. Although the original Kitty showed up all over the place in the show, she was never a central character. And she gets marginalized again as a cute dim bulb who flutters about without doing anything seemingly useful.

Loose writing
It’s a portent sign of the loose writing in the series. The main characters are skin deep. Because you can’t get into the psyche of a character and build a conspiratorial history with them, the serial doesn’t gather momentum. Logic and process are constantly sacrificed at the altar of Karamchand’s projected brilliance.

Director Pankuj Parasher brings back a lot of his trademark Karamchand style – including skewed camera angles and extended shots. None of this however builds a sense of urgency or even immediacy; the pacing is much too flat for that.

Saving Karamchand
Can this Karamchand be saved? Yes! But it’s not going to be easy. First, the series will have to get rid of its campy denouement of crimes. Its fun to see Karamchand think outside the box, but this doesn’t come across very well because most of the people he is surrounded with seem to be remarkably inept. How about making Kitty really smart and keying off of Karamchand? It’ll give her something to do and make her boss look smarter than he does today.

Develop a juicy history for Karamchand. Give him an illegitimate son for God’s sake! Tear him up with news of his estranged father calling him from his deathbed. Do something that humanizes him and brings him closer to viewers. Karamchand, when it first aired, made its name by connecting with the viewers. That essence is desperately missing in the copy.

1 comment:

Debu's Blog said...

it is one of the most suspence thriller tv show .... i like....