Embracing the 'criticism'

Mukul Chaddha, who faced backlash for recreating the much-popular UK show ‘The Office’ , is overwhelmed with change in audience’s reactions

"People went crazy on social media asking for the show to be stopped, I got some hate messages from people I didn't know how to react. However, it didn't really bother me much because no one who was reacting this way had seen our show. So I couldn't really take it as a form of criticism," says Mukul Chaddha, who will be reprising his role as Jagdeep Chaddha in The Office' 2.

In an interview with Millennium Post, the actor gets vocal about the criticism the first season got, what he thinks about comparisons with the US and UK version of show, and what the upcoming season has for the audience.

In the era of trolls, were you intimidated by the comparisons or response the show will have if it does not do well?

I didn't think too much about the public reaction to the show. It was a very meaty and a very challenging role to get, and who wouldn't want to take that on? Also, I didn't even realise just how much of a cult following this show had. It was only when Season 1 was announced, that I began to understand how much mad love there was for this franchise. People went crazy on social media asking for the show to be stopped, I got some hate messages from people I didn't know how to react. But it didn't really bother me because no one who was reacting this way had seen our show. So I couldn't really take it as a form of criticism. Of course, once it began streaming, I was nervous about people's reactions - especially people whose opinions I trust. But the response of those who saw it was so positive, that it felt great. Some of those people who sent me nasty personal messages even wrote in to apologise and say they changed their mind after they saw the show. That felt very good!

Web gives a platform to experiment. What do you think about this? Do you think 'The Office' did not do that well because of such 'experimental' content coming on web these days?

First of all, I completely disagree with your assumption that 'The Office' did not do well. It has been well-loved by several people who've seen it - even by those who've seen the US version. There was a negativity on social media prior to the release of Season 1, that has perhaps created this assumption in the minds of those who haven't watched the show.

Even on social media, the tide of public opinion has changed over time, post the release of Season 1, and even more so post Season 2. These days it's a rarity to see negative feedback about the show.

To the first part of your question, yes, I do believe that web content has allowed for more experimentation. So many different kinds of stories are being told now.

There is no restriction on the length of content, so a lot of stories can be novelistic in their telling, ensemble stories can be told, different genres experimented with. I think a show like The Office, with its completely different brand of cringe comedy and awkward humour, has been made possible in India because of this boom in web-based content.

What kind of preparation you had undergone while getting in the skin of the character?

There was a lot of work to be done to get into the character of Jagdeep Chaddha. For one, to understand what kind of person says and behaves in the completely bizarre manner that he does. And to make that believable and convincing. For another, I had to also work on rooting the character in the social milieu the writers had set him in. He's a successful paper salesman, and a proud branch manager in Faridabad. There were little tics and mannerisms I had fun adding to the character, to create this crazy man. It's been a lot of fun.

What's new that the show has to offer in season 2?

In terms of differences between the seasons, I'd say this: Season 1 sets up the tone and context for the show. It introduces us to the world of this crazy office, and its interesting characters. Given the completely different kind of awkward humour the show has, and its mockumentary shooting style, it often takes new viewers a few episodes to get into the groove of the show. But once in, the second half of Season 1 embarks on a crazy ride.

Season 2 takes off from there, plunging further in depth into the eccentricities of these characters, by putting them in bizarre situations. There are a lot more scenes outside the office, there's a lot more romance. While Season 1 just explored the unspoken love between Amit and Pammi, Season 2 has 4 or 5 different romantic tracks.

And then we have the additional of a new crazy character - Kitty Kataria, played superbly by the very talented Mallika Dua, who is a laugh riot. You will crack up each time you see her.

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