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‘CID’: The story of India’s most successful detective franchise

MUMBAI: ‘Kuch toh gadbad hai….’ ACP Pradyuman is one of the most successful cops having a 100 per cent crime-solving rate for the past 17 years. Strong-willed yet devoted and honest, the team of inspectors in ‘CID’ know it’s not child’s play when it comes to hardened criminals. While Daya breaks open the door and Abhijeet uses his analytical mind to solve the case with his associates, the chase finally results in the criminal being surrounded by the CID and then comes a SLAP! And the director yells CUT!

One of the longest-running detective series on Indian television, ‘CID’ has many firsts to its credit. It is the first fiction-based police detective show on television; it’s the longest-running show (17 years!) and counting, and has also entered the Guinness Book of World Records for having canned the longest single shot of 111 minutes.

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These facts were enough to get me in awe of the show and its creators as I moved around the set which doubles as the famous CID Bureau and forensic lab. While the unit ran around to get the next shot ready, I felt like a kid in a candy store as I am one of those vast millions who grew up watching the show on Sony Entertainment Television.

The credit for having created a successful franchise goes to the father of ‘CID’, Brijendra Pal Singh, who runs Fireworks Productions along with his partner Pradeep Uppoor. A multi-faceted personality, Singh has juggled many hats as writer, actor, director and cameraman for various episodes of the show.

I caught him in between his writing sessions for the ongoing Giraftaar Series of the show as he looked quite pressed for time. “Till about a year back, I was also correcting each line of dialogue besides writing them. Right now, I am editing the script constantly,” Singh told me.

The pressure on the team has doubled now with the show airing thrice a week again and constantly reinventing itself with new series and experimental episodes.

It is said that change is the only constant, and that has been the same with this show. The makers constantly ideate to come up with new things to make sure its loyal viewers across age groups continue to stay hooked on to the show.

DSC_0071Among the many changes ‘CID’ has gone through over the years include changes in terms of the show packaging and an expansion of the team on and off screen. In terms of the stories too, there has been a shift of focus from detection of crime to including bits of action, along with certain episodes devoted to the popular characters ACP Pradyuman, Abhijeet and Daya.

Elaborating a bit more, Aditya Shrivastava, who plays Inspector Abhijeet, said, “Now there are 4–5 directors who shoot as per their own style. Earlier, we used to focus less on action and more on detection. We were just cops solving crime cases but as the characters got established and became popular, we started creating stories around them. Even in terms of presentation, we have now become more modern.”

Talking of experiments, one can’t help thinking about the fact how some viewers consider the thriller series to be more of a comedy with Pradyuman’s theatrics, Fredrick’s jokes and Daya’s stunts. However, the team states that too was an experiment done by the team when they realised the show has a strong affinity with the kids.

Fun facts about CID:

  • The team of CID has travelled the entire country and internationally to France, Switzerland and London to shoot the show.
  • Shivaji Satam is known to make very good lassi, and when in the mood he makes it for everyone on the set.
  • Aditya Shrivastava started off as a villain in ‘CID’ and then went on to act in ‘Aahat’ before BP Singh offered him the role of a cop.
  • Shrivastava had initially agreed to shoot only 26 episodes, but the show got him hooked and he has been a part now for 17 years.
  • The most memorable episode for the team has been the one that entered the Guinness Book of World Records.
  • For one of the episodes being shot near the Indo-Tibetan border in snow, Shivaji Satam sank into the snow and was pulled out by three crew members in the nick of time.

As the big boss Shivaji Satam, aka ACP Pradyuman, himself explains, “Comedy was brought in to make it more popular when we saw more children watching our show and it was a sort of market testing. There is constant reinvention. Our new promos are more action oriented. The characters are now being blown up more to build them. The more you create and become a brand, the more successful you become.”

DSC_0084Indeed, ACP Pradyuman has himself become a brand, with several jokes being circulated around his mannerisms in the show. He has been the staple of many a stand-up comedian and continues to enjoy the popularity even today. But does that affect him?

Pat comes the reply, “I also enjoy a lot of the jokes that people make of ‘CID’ and my character. This proves you and your character are becoming more popular.”

Three most popular jokes on ACP:

  • Duniya ko ACP Pradyuman ki nazro se dekho puri duniya me gadbad dikhegi.
  • Three Idiots mein CID: Behti hawa sa tha woh, udti patang sa tha woh… ACP: ‘Daya! Kahan gaya, usse dhoondon’.
  • CID dekhne ka alag hi ehsaas hai… CID dekhne ka alag hi ehsaas hai… Daya, kaatil yahi kahi aas paas hai.

Satam explains that ACP Pradyuman sometimes appears to be rather too theatrical on purpose—this is to convey a definite thought.

“In fiction, you have to add something more than what is real. If I go overboard, it can become a caricature or hemming. I have to project a certain image and it has to come across that way,” he says.

When the show started, BP Singh had a very definite idea about Satam’s character. It was quite similar to the character of Inspector Hearthstone in an English novel series released in 1951 titled ‘Hearthstone of the Death Squad’, where the protagonist is a strong but honest man. He was very stubborn but nothing was beyond his duty and country for him.

So, how did this crime detective series go on to become such a big brand? While perhaps there are many who are aware of this story, TelevisionPost.com goes down memory lane to revive the initial years of the series and its rise.

A news cameraman with Doordarshan way back in 1973, BP Singh interacted with many police officers and learnt about crime stories and their investigation. It was when he made a murder mystery TV film for DD ‘Sirf Char Din’ that he visited the Crime Branch to know more. This furthered his interest in the topic and he went on to make a Marathi detective series ‘Ek Shunya Shunya’. Shivaji Satam featured in the show as a police inspector.

DSC_0113“I had a bunch of files from the Crime Branch as they had supported me, so it created a lot of buzz as for the first time such a programme was being made. But somehow, making a programme on real crime stories lacks drama and mystery. I am more of a mystery storyteller so I thought of making ‘CID’,” says Singh.

The pilot episode of the show was shot 21 years back in 1992, five years before the show launched in 1997 on the newly launched Hindi GEC Sony Entertainment Television. Mainly featuring fiction stories, they did seek inspiration from the happenings around the country.

A major high point of the show was its forensic expertise which Singh particularly focused on. He knew a doctor in Sion Hospital, who was a forensic expert and taught him everything about the science. “So when we started, I knew that forensic is the thing that will bring in people as there are amazing facts about a body in the science. I knew it will amaze people, so I created the character of Dr Salunkhe and he became an instant hit.”

With the internet not being available earlier, Singh collected lots of books on forensic science and detective series to read them day and night. He now claims with pride that his writers know everything about poison, bullets and more, and convert this knowledge into family entertainment.

“There was only one channel (Zee TV) at that time and there was no guidance on the kind of TV programmes. I just thought of making this show as I liked the concept and made it without depending on anyone for funding,” he adds.

But after the first episode went on air, it took off quickly reaching the No. 1 spot crossing Singh’s other production ‘Aahat’. ‘CID’ then eventually replaced the horror show, giving the team confidence to start experimenting. They then brought in Sridhar, a writer for ‘Aahat’, who, along with Singh, wrote the script bringing two different styles to the table.

However, the makers became cautious when they started getting feedback. The first major feedback was that kids were watching the show.

“It was very surprising. We were making mysteries which will test your mind and here kids were enjoying it,” he says.

It was the designing of the characters that kids liked as it created an aspiration within them to be like the CID team when they grow up. ACP Pradyuman was a dry character but people saw hope in him due to his honesty and devotion. Abhijeet was the one with a great analytical mind and Daya was the strength.

DSC_0100Dayanand Shetty, who plays Daya, believes that it was the slap cut when the criminal is caught that the kids took fancy to.

“Earlier, the slap cut was done by a low-rank officer but now it caught the fancy of kids and they liked the door-breaking sequence and the criminal being slapped. So it was an added bonanza for the show,” he states.

With each character playing a tough cop on the show, it is fascinating to watch them when the cameras switch off. Unlike their reel selves, the ‘cops’ are very chirpy, fun loving, warm and friendly. The atmosphere on the sets makes one feel at home and there is fun constantly being passed around.

Shetty says, “Since we are very serious on screen, we can’t be serious off screen. Otherwise, it will be like a morgue. So we try to be livelier and there is lot of fun and frolic happening on the sets.”

However, the pressure on the team has been huge lately. And with the production value going up in terms of investment in good costumes, locations, technology and more, sometimes the episodes have been pure loss makers but the team remains unscathed taking it in their stride.

Singh comments, “Numbers don’t matter now, people have choice. We have advantage that we have die-hard viewership but they also get fed up sometimes of seeing the same thing. We have new officers, new stories but we are a forensic-based detective thriller and will do what we can in this format. Sometimes we succeed, sometimes we flop. It’s a challenge when we visit different locations to shoot. Sometimes it’s pure loss but it has to be done. It is the demand of the show.”

Over time, there have been a lot of comparisons with earlier shows like ‘Karamchand’ and more recent ones like ‘Savdhaan India’ and ‘Crime Patrol’. However, Singh claims that each of the shows is very different in style and genre.

Explaining the difference, he states, “‘CID’ is a pure fiction show where we delve mainly in mysteries and shoot it in such a way that it looks real. ‘Savdhaan India’ and ‘Crime Patrol’ are purely based on real cases and they take that kind of background of social status and more. We are not constrained by that. While ‘Karamchand’ was a private detective show, we are a police detective show.”

He is also of the firm view that ‘CID’ is much more a family series than some soaps. The day families don’t watch the show, their viewership goes down.

DSC_0061This also leads to hectic schedules with the team shooting all 30 days in a month starting at 9 am and running up to 10 pm at night. Even with a team of six directors and around 300 crew members, the schedules are very hectic.

On this particular day too, three units with 100 crew members each were simultaneously shooting in the studio and outdoors to complete the episode. I caught Daya shuttling between his outdoor and studio shoot, followed by a mad rush to Kharghar where he is shooting for ‘Singham 2’.

Moreover, with the ongoing ‘Giraftaar Series’, the plot gets more intriguing. This is among the many innovative series done by the channel and the team, along with its own Gallantry Awards.

Director and BP Singh’s son Salil Singh states, “The audience looks forward to every scene as a stepping stone in the story. So we need to make every scene as interesting as possible. With the ‘Giraftaar Series’, there will be more action, drama and gripping scenes for the audience.”

Witnessing the drama and gripping sequences between BP Singh as DCP Chitrole and ACP Pradyuman, with Daya’s life in danger, the Giraftaar Series surely had me hooked on.

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