Fresh from the release of their online series, soap and scriptwriters Rahil Qaazi and Saurabh Tewari, talk about the freedom that television doesn’t provide
Major Badrinath Tripathi had his entire battalion killed by the Chinese in the 1962 war. More than half a century later, the major remembers an offensive which caught his men unawares, while he happened to be on a loo break. Now, a grandfather living in Lucknow, more than half a century later, must learn to accept a prospective Chinese daughter-in-law.
Rahil Qaazi and Saurabh Tewari
The action back in Lucknow shows him, shakha-style, smashing up a street Chinese thela selling noodles and Gobi Manchurian. The physically fit ageing ex-Armyman is a bigot and a lout and has an equally barbed and serrated, though not violent, set of family members. Their inappropriate jokes in Hindi riffing stereotypes about the Chinese girl’s appearance, food habits, language, etc drive her to tears, though she does not fully understand them. And this is the opening of the plot of a new web show, Chinese Bhasad, launched Thursday. It’s a laugh-a-minute bi-lingual comedy by TV writers Rahil Qaazi (Do Dooni Chaar) and Saurabh Tewari (Madhubala, Rangrasiya), who also directs the show.
They tell us a little about what went into making the series:
Q. What kind of situational comedy is most popular in India?
Tewari: The kind the entire family can watch since many homes are single TV households.
Qaazi: Clean and entertaining, something which people relate to their daily life. Kapil Sharma is a great example. He always generates humour from people’s traits.
Q. How does web comedy compare to TV — in terms of the audiences and the way content is written?
Tewari: The advantage of web is that there are fewer restrictions in terms of the subjects we can write about, and since the web caters to the young, it’s good to keep them in mind while designing content.
Qaazi: For TV, you must keep in mind things such as artists’ availability, production budgets, channels’ POV to time lines, etc. In a web series, for instance, you don’t shoot an episode a day. You have the liberty of writing a whole series at a time and shoot it later.
Q. How did you use market research to create your characters and storylines?
Tewari: The story was inspired as a close relative, who married a Chinese girl. So much research wasn’t required.
Qaazi: We never did any market research. Every story has its own soul, its own journey. The real life mixed race marriage was just the starting point, and then we raised questions about race and identity — what the girl’s life will be like, etc.
Q. There are a number of loo jokes in the show. Do you think scatological jokes sell in small towns?
Tewari: I don’t think there are any loo jokes in the series.
Qaazi: We just used the lingo of Uttar Pradesh, where use of the word ch****r is as common as chaai. Aamir Khan’s Lagaan and PK have worked across India despite their use of Awadhi and Bhojpuri, which strikes a cord with everyone.
Q. There are jokes about Chinese appearance, food and such, that might be objectionable to some audiences. How do you defend yourself?
Tewari: The intention is not to insult or provoke anyone. Everything in the series is light satire and should be taken in that spirit. We are raising a serious issue — the Indo-China relationship.
Qaazi: The intention is not to insult but condemn racism by portraying Indo-Chinese relations through our story and characters.