25 Years of CID: Cops as Buddies, Daya’s Pink Shirts and Cracking the Code of CID’s Popularity

We speak to the writers of India’s longest-running television show about how it maintained its chokehold on the public consciousness
25 Years of CID: Cops as Buddies, Daya’s Pink Shirts and Cracking the Code of CID’s Popularity

If you ever find yourself looking to watch CID in high-definition, you’ll end up at SonyLiv. Chances are that the first thing you will see is a section titled ‘Scenes That Became Memes’. It includes stills from CID that went viral on the internet, including the one in which forensic expert Salunkhe tests some cocaine by licking it. Scroll further and you’ll find short, curated clips of ACP Pradyuman, Inspector Daya and Abhijeet rescuing entire malls and landing airplanes doused in poisonous gas. SonyLiv – owned by Culver Max Entertainment, which also owns the general TV channel Sony Entertainment – recognises the brand CID has evolved into in the past 25 years. India’s longest-running television show is past being self-conscious about its outlandish premises. As it should, given CID had been raking in some of the highest television rating points (TRPs) on Sony since it first aired in 1998. According to Forbes, the show was averaging 2.98 TRPs in 2012. At the time, a TRP of 1 was considered a hit.  

Today, the show incites mixed reactions. There is an acknowledgement of the institution it is; of the actors, directors and writers it has nurtured, and the effort it has poured into churning out consistent entertainment. There are also unabashed memes inspired by the show’s peculiarities. Take, for instance, how despite being one of the most popular shows on Sony, CID continued to create low production value episodes. The characters repeated each other’s dialogues and the writing stretched the limits of forensic science. But this was possibly CID’s charm – it was a “leave-your-brains-at-home” show (wink, wink, TVF) and no one knew this better than them. As creator B.P. Singh told Forbes, “We come out with what we call believable nonsense.” 

Crackling chemistry 

Even those who haven’t had the chance to watch CID – we don’t believe these people actually exist – probably know ACP Pradyuman (Shivaji Satam), Inspector Abhijeet (Aditya Srivastava) and Inspector Daya (Dayanand Shetty). The trio joined the cast right at the start of the show and stayed on until 2018, when it was taken off air. Over these 20-odd years, the three built the kind of terrific on-screen chemistry that only emerges from real friendship. “Just yesterday, Daya and I were having dinner at my place,” said Satam over a phone call. “We stay in touch with each other, not even to relive old experiences – it’s just like meeting old friends,” he said, describing their bond as “a brotherhood.” 

That brotherhood is one of the many reasons for CID’s fan following. Chirag Salian, a writer on the show, said, “I think people watched and are still watching because of Daya and Abhijeet’s friendship. Every time [we wrote about their friendship] we used to feel like maybe it’s a bit too much and we should take a break. But that’s what people used to like watching — the bonding between Daya and Abhijeet and the cops’ camaraderie.” The writer shared how writing the buddy scenes between the cops became integral to the script. “Just a good story was not enough,” he said. 

Despite CID’s policy of refraining from delving into the characters’ personal lives, episodes that did touch upon a character’s familial issues – like the one in which ACP Pradyuman’s son is revealed to be a criminal – always did well. Such was the love towards the characters that the writers would often get emails containing specific questions about the cops, anything ranging from, “Why doesn’t Abhijeet have a family of his own?” to “It has been many days since Daya has not worn a pink shirt. Will he wear one next episode?” 

Sabb ka show 

CID is a family show and its commitment to keeping it that way only served to sustain its fanbase. Despite its morbid nature, the show has next to no gruesome violence in its narratives. It avoided depicting crimes against women and children, crimes within the family – like a father killing a son – or crimes that involved explicit sexual violence. “A lot of families watched CID while eating dinner,” says writer Tanmay Singh, which became a reason for keeping the humour ‘toilet-free’. It also seems that the show had been striving to reach the cleanest possible angle – one that was free of the pains that currently afflict the entertainment industry. “We even avoided (giving) surnames to the characters to avoid hurting sentiments of any community. Everybody was named something like Vinod or Rakesh,” said Singh. If a surname absolutely had to be assigned, ‘Kumar’ was the preferred choice. “We used to think of it as sabka show (it’s everybody’s show), for all of India to enjoy,” said the writer. 

These strategies were also immensely helpful for the show’s target audience, which was 6-14 year-olds. CID’s careful narratives made the show an alternative to cartoons, with the exception of dealing with grislier subjects. “It’s why parents allowed their kids to watch the show,” says Singh. 

Science but make it fun

“B.P sir always said, ‘The science has to be correct but it also has to be entertaining’,” says Salian. While CID might not have always nailed the ‘correct’ bit, they definitely got the entertainment down. With episodes that used everything from mummification and cloning to plastination as plot points, nobody can accuse CID of being boring. A long running serial that aired thrice a week meant writers were always experimenting with new narrative ideas. At its best, this looked like filming an 111-minute single-take episode starring Kay Kay Menon. And despite these flourishes, the show constantly endeavoured to remain comprehensible (perhaps to a fault). “Forensic terms, ballistics, the way the blood would splatter across the room and why it would go in a particular direction - these are complex (concepts), so we had to break it down for the audience to understand,” says writer Gopal Kulkarni. “New ways of technology are explained in a very simple form of language, they’re even repeated a few times to make the audience understand,” he says. Kulkarni believes that it is these small things – no matter the memes on the internet – that invested their target audience and made the show what it is today. 

(With inputs from Gayle Sequeira)

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