The tribulations of the common man are nothing to laugh about, but the Pankaj Kapur-starrer sitcom, Office Office, highlighted and satirized the absurdity of most issues faced by the average middle-class Indian. In the show, Kapur played Mussadi Lal, a middle-aged, sincere man who had to face a lot of struggle to get his work done in a corrupt public office. The hit 2001 sitcom starred Asawari Joshi, Deven Bhojani, Manoj Pahwa, and Sanjay Mishra, among others.
Kapur says, “All of us confront [the kind of] problems that were shown in the show. The USP of the show was that the problems were presented with a sense of humour, which allowed you to laugh at yourself. When you saw Mussadi Lal going through his troubles, somewhere, you too feel you have been through that yourself. But you could smile about it.”
Kapur gives “a lot of credit to director-producer Rajiv Mehra” for keeping the entire cast together, and says that they felt “like a family, sharing meals and bonding”. Before Office Office, the actor had worked with Mehra in another sitcom, Zabaan Sambhal Ke, which was why he was the first choice to play Mussadi Lal’s role. Kapur says he was excited to be back to doing comedy after a slew of different shows. “I did other shows in between [Zabaan Sambhal Ke and Office Office] such as Lifeline, Philips Top 10, Kab Tak Pukaroon, Mohandas BA LLB, and other different shows,” he adds.
Making television shows is a stressful endeavour, owing to strict deadlines, but Kapur recalls that shooting a TV show was easier than it is now, as Office Office aired once a week. He says, “We would shoot for eight to ten days initially, and then would shoot six days a week for four episodes. So, it wasn’t that tough, as you worked for a few days a month. But I found them exhausting even then, as we would work from morning to late evening. The first 50 to 80 episodes were great fun, but after that we knew the show was a success, so we were on a roll.”
Kapur says he prefers to work in shorter series, because he feels “playing a character loses its charm after a point”. He feels that one might become popular and even earn a lot through a hit show, but “as an actor, you exhaust yourself playing one character”. Kapur says, “It is not a good thing. You should remain fresh, in terms of your ability to be spontaneous. In this show, I was practically in every scene. I had to learn a lot of lines and yet be spontaneous throughout. To be able to play this character for more than 200 episodes and still retain the freshness was something of a challenge.”