My recent trip to Mumbai was different from whenever I have gone earlier. Of course, it was similar in the sense that I once again overloaded myself with books and paid excess baggage to get them home but that was about it.
Of course, it rained all the time I was there and four days of non-stop downpour proved to be a dampener on some of my plans but a visit to the sets of Tarek Mehta Ka Ulta Chashma (TMKUC) at Goregaon’s Film City compensated for all that had not happened.
The popular sitcom, which recently completed 2,000 “happysodes”, has also, in the process, become the longest-running comedy sitcom on television anywhere in the world.
I have been a TMKUC fan since it started in 2008 and have probably not missed an episode – yet! In the last few months, in particular, since I stopped watching the news, TMKUC is even more of an obsession, particularly during lazy weekends, when it’s on in the background even as other chores get done.
So a visit to the sets was in order and, fortunately, its producer and Neela Tele Films founder Asit Kumar Modi, after the exchange of a few emails and a phone call, agreed to meet me. He’s a gem of a person, rather unbecoming, diminutive man full of ideas and a passion to make people laugh. “We are a happy nation, even though we have so many problems,” he said. “We love to live life, and be happy, notwithstanding so many issues that we have.
“I only want people to laugh so that they forget all their troubles and unify in comedy. I believe we have been able to achieve our goal.”
TMKUC, which went on-air on July 28, 2008, is based on the column Duniya Ne Oondha Chashma written by columnist and journalist Taarak Mehta for Gujarati weekly magazine Chitralekha.
Two years ago, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi invited the entire team of the show to take part in the Swacch Bharat Abhiyaan. Recently the Polish deputy prime minister also visited the sets.
The show revolves around the lives of residents of Mumbai’s Gokuldham Society, in which six Indian families, respectively headed by businessman Jethalal Champaklal Gada, writer Taarak Mehta, teacher Aatmaram Tukaram Bhide, Dr. Hansraj Hathi, garage owner Roshan Singh Sodhi and scientist Krishnan Subramaniam Iyer, along with a bachelor, journalist Popatlal Pandey and a teenager, Pinku stay, among others. There are also other individual characters including Sundarlal, Abdul, Reporter Rita Shrivastav, Natwarlal Prabhashankar Udhaiwala, Bagheshwar Dadukh Udhaiwala and Bawri Dhondulal Kanpuria.
The members of the society and other characters have a good psychological attachment of love and sympathy for one another that makes them the members of a greater family. They are often seen celebrating festivals and participating in events together.
In the episodes of the show, the families are shown to live the lives of typical Indian families. However, the characters, more often than not Jethalal Gada, get into petty troubles cropping up from daily life activities that intensify in a comical manner, giving rise to laughter among the viewers.
Humour in the show is further heightened by the individual quirks of the characters. Whatever the nature of the problem that a member of the Society encounters, all the other members stand by them to extend every possible help.
In an episode, the cessation of the problem that a character faces is usually followed by a moral commentary by Taarak Mehta, which is meant for all the characters of the show as well as the viewers.
Though I wasn’t able to meet any of the characters due to their schedules, I did visit the “society” and each of the families’ apartments to get a “feel” of their lives. I did also get a chance to experience the gruelling schedule actors and all others associated with production have and how a lot of work goes into making one of India’s most-watched television shows.