Anil Kapoor's '24' knocks the bottom out of the Indian home entertainment racket to show us a world of classy production-values and mature performances (even by the teenager Sapna Pabbi, who plays Anil's daughter, who acts better than some of the over-blown hams of Hindi phillums) hitherto unknown to Indian television.
Move over, Bollywood. Indian television has matured. It is ironical that during the week when Hindi cinema touches the rock-bottom of creativity in Besharam, Anil Kapoor unleashed what is quite simply and incontestably a new level of television entertainment in India.
The first 2 episodes aired this weekend were instant show-stoppers. Like the show's agile energetic anti-terror hero, there is not an ounce of flab in the hour-long playing time of '24''.
'24' simply grabs your attention and refuses to let it go.
First things first. The production value seen on the show are of a caliber unknown to Indian television. Metropolitan night-life was never meant to be like this. Mumbai is caught in a feverish flourish of night-time bustle turning it into a city of pulsating activity as the serial kick-started with some of the coolest crispest fiction writing witnessed on the medium of tedium.
Rensil D'Silva and Bhavani Iyer's writing is topnotch. While retaining the looming suspense and the breakneck narrative speed of the original American series, the writers have created space for the very peculiar cultural compulsions of urban India where the householder must balance the demands of his posh job with family obligations. Milap Zaveri's dialogues capture the wry cynicism and the split-second immediacy of anti-terrorists working against the clock. But Zaveri doesn't slavishly copy the original dialogues from the American series. None of the 'Kya tum sach mein ho?' (Literal translation of "Are you for real?') incongruities.
Is this the same guy who scripted the smut spree in Grand Masti?
I can ask the same of Anil Kapoor whose range of performing abilities swing irreconcilably from the nudge-nudge-wink-wink innuendos of Race 2 on the 70mm screen to the mature panther-like agility of a family man coping with a national crisis in '24' on the portable screen. It's a dream role, and one into which Anil sinks his teeth with restrained relish. Nowhere does he over-do the bravura, even in that intrinsically cocky sequence where he injects Glucose into his insufferable senior pretending it would kill the boor in seconds.
Such writing would conventionally be considered wasted