In 2004 began an urban comedy show featuring a crazy family living in posh south Mumbai. The ratings for the weekly show were abysmal. Interestingly, after it was pulled off air, the reruns began to pick up steam. And thus was born the cult that is Sarabhai v/s Sarabhai. Twelve years later, the show's odd-ball characters are back - this time on the streaming platform, Hotstar. The snobbish Maya (played by Ratna Pathak Shah) is back with her sassy take-downs of her daughter-in-law Monisha’s middle class habits. And Momma’s boy, Rosesh may have found a new muse for his poems. We caught up with the show's cast and crew to look back on their 14-year love affair with these characters.
SARABHAI V/S SARABHAI - ROUND 1
Sumeet Raghavan: When I met JD (Majethia, Producer) and Aatish (Kapadia, Writer), they were working on Khichdi when they pitched another show where they wanted me to play the character of Sanjay. I agreed as I was eager to work with them. I was also in need of money to pay my EMI; those were the initial days! They narrated the story and eventually Sanjay became Saahil. When I heard the two big names in the cast, I was on board.
Ratna Pathak Shah: I’d heard of Deven (Bhojani, Director) and Aatish because of their work on TV and stage, I was impressed. JD was producing it so with their shared sensibilities whatever they would do, they’d do well. Their work on Gujarati stage stood out, was fun to watch and original - never before, never after! I thought, he’ll write a play and ask me to act in it. I remember I was in the middle of a rehearsal in Bandra, standing in for the director, when they gave me a one-liner - she’s a snooty, south Bombay bitch and I agreed!
RIDING OUT THE WAVE OF EXPECTATIONS
JD Majethia: There was only one question in mind - will we be able to recreate the magic after so many years? Usually new seasons come out within the next couple of years, but to recreate something after such a long period of time is really tough. We have all grown in our minds and in our personalities, been exposed to the different things in the world, to then bring out the same energy and madness was a challenge. Earlier, we didn’t know the nuances people had loved. However, it boiled down to one thing - the script. The writing, which was so superlative then, had to be of the same quality now.
Aatish Kapadia: I had no apprehensions because we didn’t create Sarabhai, Sarabhai became. There was a lot of story to be told, a lot of layers within relationships to be explored when it shut down prematurely. It was like rekindling a friendship; we just picked up where we left off.
Ratna: Absolutely. One wonderful thing for me at least, is that I’m completely out of the social media world so I didn’t know what was happening. These people keep feeding me bits and pieces of information but for me, I didn’t realise what a great thing we had done! I didn’t know that Rosesh’s Momma and Maya Sarabhai’s put-downs have become so big! But we now have this pressure that last time bahaut achcha tha, ab bhi hona chahiye!
A COMEBACK AFTER 12 YEARS
Sumeet: We just picked up where we had left off.
JD: The first day was very challenging - logistically and technically. We had to be very cautious. We're all very committed to the brand of Sarabhai. The smallest details like the first look and teaser, they (actors) were bothered about it. You’ll see in the first episode; it was a very challenging exterior shoot. Such shoots can go wrong, if not planned. I thank my production team, who have worked so hard to make everything so smooth.
Rajesh Kumar: The best part this time was that we were left altogether in a bus, where we were not supposed to do anything. We were just sitting inside, chatting. The warm up happened there itself!
Sumeet: We were like a bunch of school kids without the class teacher!
Ratna: The biggest challenge has been how to get us to shut up during the shoot!
A NEW SEASON, A NEW MEDIUM
Aatish: In the previous season we’d shoot four episodes at a time. This season all the episodes are linear but we shot it non-linear. It wasn’t tough for me because I’ve written it so I know the sequence.
Deven Bhojani: I needed time to remember the story. Since it was a location-wise shoot, the graph had to be maintained without disturbing the linearity. Any character’s execution cannot be haphazard.
Aatish: But the sets were far more innovative this time.
Ratna: But we had less space so we had to construct Maya’s house, demolish it and make Monisha’s. It was heart wrenching, when they were breaking Maya’s house for the last time, we really felt like crying ki apna ghar toot raha hai!
WHAT TO EXPECT FROM TAKE 2
Aatish: I know a whole bunch of people exactly like the Sarabhai family who I’ve based the show on. I thought the ‘vs.’ (in the title of the show) was a little superficial. It’s more pronounced this time. Maya and Indravadan have become grandparents. So Maya’s concern will be how Monisha is going to bring up the child. Maya’s affection as that of a grandmother’s is a very different dimension. I wasn’t a father the first time I wrote Sarabhai, now I am. I thought it’d be very interesting to explore the relationship between Saahil, his son and his father. I could be completely wrong but I believe I’ve tried to go deeper into the skin of the relationships. There are also some new characters who’ve joined, because of whom the dynamics have exploded further.
Watch the teaser of the show here. The show premieres on May 16.