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Karamchand: Not quite the same

Last updated on: February 12, 2007 12:11 IST
The hyper detective, who likes his cases to be tough, carrots to feel crunchy, sidekick to behave silly and sunglasses to look mysterious, is back on television!

Only now, Karamchand is some 20 years older and takes an additional half hour to solve the case.

So does the cool detective of the 1980s still have what it takes to compete with scheming saas-bahus, regressive family dramas, talent contests or star-studded chat/quiz shows? The answer is a sad no.

Back then, everyone loved Karamchand. He was an icon on Doordarshan. The way he talked, dressed, behaved -- it was stuff fancy dress competition contestants relied on to take home the best prize.

Why Karamchand, even Phatichar (Remember the catch phrase -- Arre yaar phatichar, tu itna emotional kyun hain?), again Pankaj Kapur in the titular avatar, was super cool!

Point is, icons should either be revered or bettered. Director Pankaj Parashur, who gave us a sleek, dynamic hero with fascinating eccentricities and inimitable mannerisms, poorly cashes on the once-upon-a-time craze and spoils the wonderful memories of the original. 
 
On February 10, Karamchand made its debut at 9 pm on Sony TV. For many of us, it was a great chance to watch the beloved detective and his antics in colour. Not everyone was blessed with a colour TV set in 1985, pal!

It started out like it had left off, with Anand Milind's catchy tune playing against the opening credits which featured multiple screen cut-outs of the man seeking mystery.

So what's the case? A laundry shop owner gets killed. The usual suspects are her good-for-nothing son, a bumbling assistant and a selection of customers, all into infidelity. Apparently, the deceased was into blackmailing while the killer's motive was to put an end to her ever-increasing demands.

So far, so hmm. But the reasons cited for the crime, by the offender, take the cake. They are simply ridiculous and unfounded.

This is not the only place where Karamchand falters.

The newly revived series suffers with too many loopholes to ignore. Perhaps the upcoming episodes will have a different story to tell. Let's see what went wrong with the debut episode.

For starters, the dialogues are badly written. They are devoid of both wit and logic -- key ingredients of a whodunit. The editing is tacky. Most of the scenes are prolonged and go nowhere, a big no-no in today's times when remote control is God.
As for the supporting characters, they are tacky and ham like crazy. Nowadays, television actors are a major draw. They would have been an interesting choice to guest star and add some glamour to the proceedings.

The real star of Karamchand is undoubtedly Pankaj Kapur. But his massive talent remains shockingly underused. What used to look like a self-confident, unconventionally sexy and wacky desi Sherlock is now a nervous, squishy, lacklustre investigator.

Karamchand is incomplete without the woman he loves to shut up -- Kitty. While Sushmita Mukherjee made stupid look cute, her replacement Sucheta Khanna looks increasingly lost and doesn't register.

The upgraded version seems to be too conscious and stifled by its own popularity. In trying to play safe, it neither bears the stamp of the old one nor attempts to break new ground.
Sukanya Verma