Takeshi Castle was an extremely silly Japanese game show from the late 1980s, hosted by future filmmaker Takeshi ‘Beat’ Kitano, featuring a series of competitions that most often ended with participants in mud or water or in flat on the back. It seems an unlikely candidate for cult status in India, but it did happen in 2005, when someone at Pogo TV had the inspired idea of ââasking Jaaved Jaaferi to dub a Hindi commentary. on the episodes. Something about the incongruous sight of Japanese children and adults sliding and sliding as Jaaferi provided an endless stream of jokes in famous voices from Shah Rukh Khan to comedian Jagdeep (Jaaferi’s father) made this show absurd a much appreciated success.
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Those who were adolescents or younger when Takeshi Castle aired in India might burst into a loving smile if they watch Lava Ka Dhaava, a Hindi dub of the famous American game show The ground is lava. Jaaferi switches between accents and characters, as changeable as he was a decade and a half ago in Takeshi, or in the late 1990s by hosting musical variety shows Timex Timepass and Flashback videocon (he also hosted the popular dance show Boogie Woogie). On a Zoom call, Living room talks to the actor, singer and dancer about his heroes of comedy, improvisation, mimicry and the difference between dubbing for Takeshi Castle and Lava Ka Dhaava. Edited excerpts:
Were dubbed game shows anything when you did “Takeshi’s Castle”?
There was a German show called Telematch on Doordarshan: very innovative and elaborate games. But at the time of Takeshi broadcast in India, no game show was dubbed. I saw the show’s English dub, which had a lot of grown-up humor. In India they wanted a family show, so I kept it very clean,
I enjoyed it thoroughly. I didn’t think it was going to become a cult series. I said, okay, this is for the kids, let’s have fun. But many adults have come to appreciate it. It became a stress reliever because you could pick it up from anywhere.
You did another dubbed show at the time called “Ninja Warriors”.
Ninja Warriors was shortly after Takeshi. The difference was that Ninja Warriors was a very serious game show. Some people came to pick it up after practicing for a year; he had serious suitors. contrary to Takeshi, which is a crazy sight.
How do you compare your work on these and on âLava Ka Dhaavaâ?
Takeshi was insane in itself, so being insane was easy because you get information about what’s happening on the screen. Ninja Warriors, especially in the last laps, was very physically demanding. It took a lot of skill and athleticism on the part of the participants, so I had to maintain a balance of admiration and weaving in the fun element. Likewise, in Lava Ka Dhaava, they all came to win. This is the difference: in Takeshi, the participants and the commentator were crazy, while in the other two shows the participants are serious.
My generation discovered you at the end of the 90s, with ‘Timex Timepass’ and ‘Videocon Flashback’.
They have also become cult series. If you look at what people are doing today on YouTube, playing multiple characters, then see Timex Timepass, with me playing 14 characters, it was revolutionary at the time. You can’t find a precursor.
The chains had their S&P (standards and practices), they said we wanted to keep it clean, but there was no supervision. They just said, there is a studio, go double. We’ve never had a problem with people telling us, don’t say that. Today I can’t even say a line in a song without S&P being a problem. If I go there, apne aap ko Amitabh Bachchan samajhta hai kya, people are like, you can’t say “Amitabh Bachchan”. It got so weird – you can’t take someone’s name, you can’t say a mark, a line from a movie.
Did you want improv comedy from an early age?
Yeah, I guess. It is your environment that makes you: the people you meet, the speeches you hear, the cultures you see. It’s like a data bank. Being in a place like Mumbai, traveling by train is a huge collection of material. You think I could use this approach, this accent. Although I didn’t consciously think about it then, I just watched.
Have you had any comics that you admired or imitated?
You see, there was no stand-up back then. There were mimicry artists – when you go to a wedding there would always be one, who will do some kind of impersonation / stand-up with a bit of observational humor. People like Johnny Whiskey, Shahid Bijnori, Prince Shakeel … they were very, very popular. And later came Johnny Lever.
When I was young the only comedy we watched was Laurel and Hardy, Charlie Chaplin, Tom and Jerry, Three Stooges on the morning shows. And in Indian movies we watched Mehmood saab, Johnny Walker saab, my dad, IS Johar, Keshto Mukherjee, Paintal. There were no videos; VHS came along when I was probably 13-14 years old. When I was younger it was just Hindi movies and those morning shows.
The shows you’ve hosted and the game shows you’ve dubbed for both have a knack for mimicry and for switching between characters. Was Robin Williams an inspiration?
Williams was amazing. (I operated) at a much lower level. When I started in 1994, some films were there on laser disc. But there were no stand-up comedy tapes. We learned that much later.
George Carlin was my favorite. He never entered the characters, he was more socio-political, spoke 100 words a minute and yet so learned. They were actors that I got to know later but when I was doing Timex Timepass there was no point of reference.
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Two characters I borrowed from my father: a guy called Cafe Azmi (he had played a similar role in a movie called Qurbani, an aspiring boxer holding a cafe) and another with a Dilli-6 way of speaking. Then there was Hip Hop Hingorani, a DJ from Club Dadlani; Analysis Anandan, a double personality psychiatrist who became Vengeance Veerappan; Sherpa Sultanpuri, a Nepalese who wants to become a lyricist; Kung Fu Kader from Hyderabad; Queenie Singh from Punjab; Adbhut Applause, who swore by Shatrughan Sinha; Chaila Sylverstar, a cyborg from Sahyadri with a voice of Sylvester Stallone; Kabri Chacha, who is 85 and stuck in a time warp in the 1940s.
Bachchan often appears in your dubbing. Do you have a favorite subject for mimicry?
I was doing people like Jeevan, Saeed Jaffrey, Sohrab Modi, KN Singh, Sapru saab – no one even knew who these people were. I liked it. From the general public, there is Shatrughan Sinha, Dev Anand. I was one of the first to do a Sanjay Dutt. Dilip Kumar I have done this quite often; General Lee in Takeshi was Dilip saab. But the flow was different from the mimicry artists that I grew up watching – switching in the middle of a sentence.