India Uncut

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Saturday, February 10, 2007

The return of Karamchand

"Shut up, Kitty."

"Yes boss!"

It's an excellent sign of the memorableness of a character if, almost two decades after we last saw him, we can remember his little idiosyncracies: the carrot-eating, the terse questioning, the affectionate faux-contempt towards the goofy sidekick. Karamchand was back on air today, and I think it will do well because of Karamchand -- the character, that is.

The key to a popular detective series is to create a memorable character who entertains you, and who you enjoy reading about. Holmes, Poirot, Feluda were successful characters because once you were familiar with them, you looked forward to just being with them, regardless of plot. Indeed, plot was of negligible consequence. If you read Alexander McCall Smith's exceptionally popular Mma Ramotswe series, you will note that the plots there are amateurish, but the characters are immensely entertaining. That's the key to its popularity.

I use the term "character" loosely, of course -- in much detective fiction, such as Agatha Christie's work, the main detectives are caricatures and not well-rounded characters with an interior life. And yet, they are entertaining caricatures, which is why it works.

And so it is with Karamchand. Pankaj Kapur's character may never show the compassion or curiosity about the human condition that, say, Commissaire Maigret shows, but as long as he chews that carrot and tells Kitty to shut up, the TRPs will come in.

(I'd accidentally put this post up on Chandrahas's blog, The Middle Stage, pressing the wrong button on my dashboard. Apologies to both his readers and mine!)
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