CID: Case is closed

Aditya Mani Jha | Updated on November 02, 2018

Break the spell: Some reports suggest that the show will be back, in a new avatar, after a three-month leave of absence

After a 21-year run, Indian TV show CID bid adieu last week

They came, they pondered (big, weighty, hand-twirling things), they pandered (to record audiences, as ever) and they solved multiple grisly murders. Those final 40 minutes played like a greatest hits package, just the way we wanted them to. Daya flexed his biceps and beat up the baddies. Pradyuman flexed his frontal cortex and his 2,666 grimace-muscles. Dr Salunkhe and his aggressive comb-over shot several meaningful glances at a trigger-happy media.

And just like that, CID, one of India’s longest-running scripted TV shows, bid adieu on October 27 after its producers pulled the plug. For the last 21 years, CID had been a constant fixture on TV screens around the country, the cornerstone of SET’s (Sony Entertainment Television) programming. The chief triumvirate — ACP Pradyuman (Shivaji Satam, previously best known for playing Sanjay Dutt’s father in Vaastav), senior inspector Abhijeet (Aditya Srivastava) and, of course, everybody’s favourite brawny cop senior inspector Daya (Dayanand Shetty) — became household names. The other two permanent characters, the forensic scientist Dr Salunkhe (Narendra Gupta) and the wisecracking inspector Fredericks (Dinesh Phadnis), often provided comic relief from the more hardboiled action on the show.

Earlier this week, The Indian Express reported that “sources close to CID” had said the show was merely taking a three-month leave of absence before “returning in a brand-new avatar”. In other words, the show is being rebooted and not scrapped altogether, which is likely to involve fresher, younger faces — and the inevitable exit of the original players. Either way, the show as we know it is over.

CID began life in April 1997, and by 1998 it had consolidated a prime-time slot on Sony. Like a lot of iconic shows down the years, the stories behind the cast getting together are now legion. Satam, for instance, was a part of the Marathi true crime show Ek Shunya Shunya, which was also made by BP Singh, the creator of CID.

Singh also hand-picked Shetty after spotting him in a Marathi community play.

Srivastava’s story, perhaps, is the more interesting one. In 1998, a lead actor on CID left to direct a big-budget Bollywood film, a real passion project. This was none other than Ashutosh Gowariker, who exited the show to direct Lagaan with Aamir Khan. As a result, Singh roped in Srivastava, initially promising to let him go after 26 episodes (Srivastava, hot off the success of Ram Gopal Varma’s gangster epic Satya, saw TV as a demotion of sorts from his fledgling film career). The rest, as they say, was history.

However, this was far from the show’s only brush with Bollywood. As Indian couch potatoes know, Bollywood stars have a weird equation with homegrown TV shows. In general, they view Indian television, with its low budgets and tacky VFX, as definitely beneath them. On the eve of big movie releases, however, they grin and bear it and make strategic ‘special appearances’ on popular, crowd-pleasing shows like CID. Akshay Kumar did so just before the release of 2014’s Rowdy Rathore. Aamir Khan reprised his cop role from Talaash just before the film’s release. Even Salman Khan did something very similar on the eve of Kick. Conversely, Shetty played a cop called Daya in the 2014 film Singham Returns, in a clear homage, so clear that they even included the line uttered by Pradyuman that signals action time for Daya: “Daya, darwaaza tod do (tear down the door)”.

The one time a Bollywood actor played a meaningful role on CID — and played it really well — was in a November 2004 episode called ‘Inheritance’. This 111-minute episode was shot in a single take, securing the show’s place in both the Guinness and Limca record books. This episode, which was quite self-consciously modelled on the hit counter-terrorism show 24, saw Kay Kay Menon in a crucial role. It featured a clock-graphic ominously ticking away at the corner of the screen and was aired in a two-hour continuous slot without ad breaks. In 2004, this was still highly unusual for Indian television, even if the idea was borrowed wholesale, to put it charitably. Another American TV trope that CID tried to mimic, with decidedly mixed results, was the crossover episode. CID aired crossover episodes with two other mega-popular Sony shows: the horror anthology Aahat and the courtroom bleeding-heart drama Adaalat, starring Ronit Roy in the lead role. The latter worked, for the most part, playing off the natural tension between law enforcement and defence lawyers. The former was more comic than eerie.

Throughout its two-decade run, there were certain kinds of storylines that CID favoured — the ‘get-rich-quick scheme’ was a fan favourite because it chimed well with the darker side of India’s aspirational spirit of the ’90s. The ‘evil tech/scientific genius’ was another. The ‘inside job’ (family members plotting against the victim) was a third.

No surprises, then, that the very last episode had elements of all three, in a typically convoluted plot involving explosives named ‘laser bombs’, although they damaged the victim’s ears more than their eyes (they emitted frequencies unbearable to the human ear on exploding, thus making them concussive bombs, truth be told). Memorably, it also had a killer knocking over skittles in a bowling alley… using a decapitated head. Talk about going out on a high.

Aditya Mani Jha is a commissioning editor with Penguin Random House

Published on November 02, 2018

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