How Marathi TV show 'Chala Hawa Yeu Dya' turned into a blockbuster

Updated: Aug 15, 2016, 11:38 IST | Anju Maskeri

A good dose of comedy, a dab of social consciousness and a celeb formula that never fails. Here's why Marathi television's 'Chala Hawa Yeu Dya' has turned into a prime time must-watch

Even before we enter the studio at Mira Road's Classic Studio, the resounding laughter of rambunctious men and high-pitched singing slips past the door and hits us on the spiral staircase leading up to the first floor dressing room and stage area.

When we step inside, there's Kushal Badrike, Bhalchandra Kadam, Nilesh Sable and Bharat Ganeshpure sitting on a yellow couch in a common area, rehearsing lines.

Sagar Karande (centre) plays actor Amitabh Bachchan, who is invited as a chief guest to the fictional village of Thukratwadi for the dahi handi festival. Pic/Nimesh Dave
Sagar Karande (centre) plays actor Amitabh Bachchan, who is invited as a chief guest to the fictional village of Thukratwadi for the dahi handi festival. Pic/Nimesh Dave

"Dombivli Dombivli Dombivli, amhaala pyaari hai Dombivli," Badrike sings to a tune Sable provides. Majha Dombivli, Badrike says, is a ditty he's composed as a retort against fellow cast members. "They constantly poke fun at me saying I need to cross immigration and get a visa to come from there. This is a song to show solidarity with fellow Dombivli folks, and tell the world how proud I am of it," he laughs.

The visa jibes are not taken to heart. Here, nothing really is. Almost in consonance with the title of the show, the cast of 'Chala Hawa Yeu Dya,' is chilled out.

(L-R) Bharat Ganeshpure, Sagar Karande, Bhalchandra Kadam and Kushal Badrike break into a dance as Shreya Bugde and Nilesh Sable look on. Suresh Wadkar and Swapnil Bandodkar were also present.
(L-R) Bharat Ganeshpure, Sagar Karande, Bhalchandra Kadam and Kushal Badrike break into a dance as Shreya Bugde and Nilesh Sable look on. Suresh Wadkar and Swapnil Bandodkar were also present.

For Hindi television snobs, Chala Hawa Yeu Dya is Marathi TV's answer to the popular The Kapil Sharma Show. The show which airs twice a week on Zee Marathi primetime is raking up high TRPs, with an average of 4.6, and competes with Kapil Sharma's show. And, it's got noticed by Bollywood too. While the big names of Marathi film and theatre — the Pilgaonkar family, the entire Sairat unit — have been on the show to promote their films, the likes of Salman Khan, Sonam Kapoor and more recently, Akshay Kumar have also made it to the Mira Road sets in the last few weeks.

Dr Nilesh Sable works on the script during rehearsal
Dr Nilesh Sable works on the script during rehearsal

On the sets
Walking in the middle of a rehearsal, we sheepishly settle down on a comfortable yellow couch, which is later transported on set for the day's celebrity guest — Avadhoot Gupte, who has recently directed Kanha, along with singers Suresh Wadkar, Sonu Kakkar and Swapnil Bandodkar (who have sung for the film) and Gashmeer Mahajani, Vaibbhav Tatwawdi and Gauri Nalawade, the film's lead actors.

Twenty metres away is the studio, where a stage has been converted into the fictional village Thukratwadi. Along with the regular props of peepal tree and Warli paintings on cardboard walls, a dahi handi on a string has been set up, perhaps as a cue for Gupte to talk about his film which revolves around Gokulashtami. The fictional Café Thukratwadi is where the show's writer and director, the young, 30-year-old Sable, meets them all — his wayward family, pretend celebs, village members and, of course, the celebrity guests. The show begins with introductions of the celebrity guests, moving onto a free-wheeling chat about themselves and the film.

Shreya Bugde gets her hair done
Shreya Bugde gets her hair done

It's seven hours before shoot, but the cast is still improvising. "There are days when we just have a sketchy idea of what we're going to say on stage. Then, we sit together, brainstorm and the story takes shape at that moment. Sometimes, it happens a day before the performance," says Shreya Bugde, the only woman on the six-member team, adding that inputs come from everyone on the floor — the spot boys to channel producers.

That the brainstorming sessions are hardly serious is evident, when Badrike, whose mimicry of Suniel Shetty had actor Salman Khan falling off his seat in the show that was aired in July, bursts into fits of laughter while rehearsing his Dombivli song.

The only quiet one in the room seems to be Sable, ironically the host who seems livewire when the camera is turned towards him. Sable, an MS in Ayurveda, quit practice six years ago to pursue a career in entertainment. "He left medicine after he ended up killing a couple of people," jokes Ganeshpure, Thukratwadi's sarpanch.

Dressed in grey jeans and a black shirt, Sable admits he's the quietest of the lot, even if he has mastered the art of making people speak their mind on camera. "People sometimes think I am uptight, but the fact is I'm always silently observing the world around me. It just takes me a couple of minutes to mimic their mannerisms," he says.

Sable, who won Maharashtracha Superstar, a talent hunt aired on the same channel, eleven years ago, says Chala Hawa's cast was culled from the comedy reality show Fu Bai Fu (which aired on Zee Marathi from 2010 to 2014) — the one that catapulted him to fame as a host "The chemistry is great because we have known each other for years," says Sable who hails from Kolhapur. Sable says the show was conceptualised after an interaction with actor Riteish Deshmukh, who in 2014 was out and about promoting Lai Bhari, one of Marathi cinema's biggest blockbusters. "We chatted about how Marathi television should have a platform like Kapil's show to promote indigenous films," says Sable, whose first guest when the show was aired on August 18, of course, Deshmukh. Next week, the show completes two years with 200 episodes.

Till now, the show has seen actors like Nana Patekar (Natsamrat), Salman Khan (Sultan), Shah Rukh Khan (Fan), Irrfan Khan (Madaari) and Akshay Kumar (Rustom) promoting their films. "Salman Khan, was fasting when he was on our show, and was supposed to break his fast and return for an hour to complete it. He ended up staying back for almost five hours and ended his fast at 11.30 that night," recalls Sable, adding that Khan was so delighted with their jokes that he had tears in his eyes. "We thought we might have to tweak the show for Bollywood stars, but surprisingly, they have all insisted on speaking in Marathi. John Abraham and Varun Dhawan sat backstage rehearsing their lines in Marathi. Akshay Kumar spoke in Marathi in the entire show," says Sable, who says non-Maharashtrians make up a sizeable chunk of the viewers. "The other day a Gujarati family came up to me and spoke to me about how they love Chala Hawa…," he adds.

Tapping into the audience
Among the live audience today is a family of five from Nalasopara, who have been invited by the channel. "We have been watching the show ever since it launched. It's a bonding time for the family because after a hard day's work, you can just sit back and have a good laugh. It works as a stress buster," says Narendra Khandare, who works for an oil company, adding that his wife and mother haven't missed a single episode of the show.

But, a live audience often has little idea of what it takes to put a 45-minute show together. After reaching the studio at 11.45 am, we had to wait for nine hours of rehearsal before the shoot finally began at 9 pm. "It's happened that when we start, we have an audience of 30 and by the time we end it, it's down to just ten. People get tired of the wait," says Ganeshpure.

But, nobody is tired of the show just yet.

The team, which recently performed in Sydney, says the response has been overwhelming. "People come and thank us because they think their kids, who would otherwise speak in English have developed a new-found love for Marathi because of the show," says Bugde.

Drawing the line
In the dressing room, Bugde mock complains that the jokes between the male cast members often get bawdy. "I might be the only girl in the team, but they treat me like a guy. I've to sometimes remind them that I'm in the room and they need to tone down their jokes," laughs the 28-year-old.

On camera, however, Sable wants the humour to be U/A, ranging from film spoofs to observational humour.

A common theme between most comedy shows is the crossdressing and Chala Hawa… also digs into this humour. Today, Kadam, who plays a music teacher, is wrapped up in a mahagony saree with a plaited wig. Kadam, aka Bhau, says all the men on the show take turns in playing women. "We first tried this in Fu Bai Fu, and it worked. But, we make sure we don't play the same character. This is the case with the entire format, where we introduce new characters to break the monotony."

Ganeshpure, who essays the role of Mr Badbade, who stammers, and Bugde who plays Mrs Badbade, who speaks fast, says characters are inspired by everyone around them. "These two characters are somebody that Bharat knows. We keep observing people around us. Tomorrow we might just portray a character inspired by you," smiles Sable.

On a serious note

The one serious element that the show has is a letter read out by Sagar Karande, who plays a postman. "It's the most serious aspect of the show. Since it's reaching such a wide audience, we felt we should take this opportunity to raise social consciousness," says Karande. The letter is scripted by writer Arvind Jagtap. "When Narendra Dabholkar's daughter and son had come on the show, I had written a letter from Dabholkar to the people, urging them to find more Dabholkars instead of chasing the killer."

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