Indian remake of ‘The Office’, ‘Criminal Justice’ in the offing

BBC Worldwide India, Applause Entertainment to produce shows

Indian remakes of British television series Criminal Justice and workplace comedy The Office are in the works. Reportedly, BBC Worldwide has struck format deals with Aditya Birla Group’s Applause Entertainment to develop and produce Indian versions of the popular BBC show.

According to various media reports, the British distributor announced the partnership plans at BBC Showcase, its annual programming event in Liverpool. This will be the first time both the shows will be developed in Asia.

The Senior Vice President and General Manager, South East Asia and South Asia at BBC Worldwide, Myleeta Aga is reported to have said that remaking The Office and Criminal Justice is just the first step. BBC is also in talks with Applause Entertainment for more formats.

‘The Office
A British mockumentary sitcom, The Office was first broadcast in the United Kingdom on BBC Two on July 9, 2001. Created, written and directed by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, the sitcom is about the day-to-day lives of office employees of the fictitious Wernham Hogg Paper Company based in a nondescript industrial town called Slough. Gervais played the central character, a narcissistic, childish and egotistical, middle manager named David Brent.

The success of the show led to a number of adaptations and it was produced for the television markets of other nations. The United States’ version starring Steve Carrell, as the lead character Michael Scott, ran for nine seasons. Filmed in a single-camera setup, without a studio audience or a laugh track, the show initially featured Rainn Wilson, John Krasinski, Jenna Fischer and B J Novak alongside Carell, as the main cast.

The ‘Desi’ version
In its Indian adaptation, the Slough, Berkshire-setting will be replaced by an industrial park in Faridabad, reportedly. Brent will be Indianised as Jagdeep Chaddha, the boss of Wilkins Chawla paper company.

The adaptation will focus on series one and two of the US version, which will be adapted into one series of 28 episodes

‘Criminal Justice
A drama series first aired on BBC in 2008, written by Peter Moffat, Criminal Justice follows life of individuals on a gut-wrenching journey through the criminal justice system. The five-episode series aired for two seasons.

Directed by Otto Bathurst and Luke Watson, the first series starred Ben Whishaw as Ben Coulter, a young man accused of murder after a drunken and drug-filled night out, though is unable to remember committing the crime. The second series directed by Yann Demange and Marc Jobst aired in 2009 and featured Maxine Peake as troubled housewife Juliet Miller whose husband was stabbed in their bed.  

The first season of the drama has been adapted for the US by HBO as The Night Of. Starring John Turturro and Riz Ahmed, the miniseries reportedly experienced a TV ratings growth over its eight-episode run, with daily ratings tripling from its premiere to its finale.

‘Criminal Justice’ in India
Applause Entertainment has reportedly planned to set the first season Criminal Justice in present-day Mumbai. Also to be filmed in the maximum city, the yet-to-be named show will be 10 episodes long.

History says
The Office and Criminal Justice are not the only two BBC shows that that have head east. Prior to this, scripted formats such as satirical sitcom Yes Minister and comedy Keeping Up Appearances have been adapted in India.

Yes Minister was adapted as Ji Mantriji, literal translation, in 2001. Produced by Ochre Media, the sitcom telecast on STAR TV’s channel STAR Plus featured Farooq Sheikh as Surya Prakash Singh, the Minister of Administrative Affairs, and Jayant Kripalani as the department’s secretary.

The plot lines were the same as those of the original, with suitable changes in the Indian context.  The halls of Whitehall transformed into the parliamentary corridors of New Delhi. Reportedly, the sequel Yes Prime Minister was also licensed from the BBC, but was never made.

In 2003, BBC Worldwide signed a new production deal with production company Chrysalis Films and Star Plus to make 26 episodes of Keeping up Appearances in Hindi, with an all Indian cast. Titled Kauva Chala Hans ki Chaal, the comedy had lead character Bulbul Sand, played by TV, theatre and movie actress Ketaki Dave and her long suffering husband Madan Sand played by Manish Chaudhari.