It makes sense for Sarabhai Vs Sarabhai to return as a web series on Hotstar, for it is the internet that kept the show alive after it ended in 2006. Even though it was the funniest series on air back in 2004, ratings dwindled in the face of daily soaps packed with mindless plotlines and unnecessarily extravagant jewellery and costumes. Countless listicles, fan pages on social media, and fan-made supercut videos of Maya belittling Monisha and Rosesh mangling poetry created a cult following for the comedy series.
Now, 11 years later, the show has returned and the entire world is cheering together – a loud resounding “Whoopie.”
But things have changed in the past decade. Maya Sarabhai (Ratna Pathak Shah) is still bothered by the absolute middle class-ness of Monisha (Rupali Ganguly). Indravadan (Satish Shah) and Sahil (Sumeet Raghavan) still look for ways to avoid the terrifying poetry of Rosesh (Rajesh Kumar). There is, however, a new addition: Arnab (also known as Guddu), Sahil and Monisha’s seven-year old son who takes more after his uppity grandma than his penny pinching mother. The family has moved into swanky penthouse apartments while their Cuffe Parade flats are being renovated.
The first episode of Take 2 starts on a literal cliffhanger. The Sarabhais are holding on to dear life inside an empty bus that is dangling from the edge of a cliff. The drunk driver whom Monisha hired (obviously) is missing, and Maya is furious at her daughter-in-law. Tensions are high – peppered with some good old Sarabhai humour and some horrible Rosesh poetry. When Monisha helps her son lower the window to go find help, Sahil Sarabhai (Sumeet Raghavan) runs after him and the bus seems to tip over. We move from this predicament to the present day where Sahil welcomes the audience into his palatial and garish new apartment, where he tells us that they all lived to tell the tale.
The tale in question consists of a vision that gives Maya and Indravadan’s Tarot-reading daughter Sonia (Aishwarya Sakhuja) a psychic attack. She talks about an unfulfilled, downmarket wish that is causing turbulence in Rosesh’s life. Rosesh is in love with Jasmine Mavani, actress and “singress” from Jamnagar whose butchered English vocabulary comes with a pronounced Gujarati accent. Maya is not ready for this, especially after Monisha and Dushyant (Deven Bhojani).
Following a loud outburst of emotional blackmail from Rosesh, Maya and the family set off on a road trip to meet Monisha’s clearly unsophisticated Matkadhar Baba in the hope of getting Jasmine out of Rosesh’s life.
The series is still funny, but the many hits come with quite a few misses. While the characters are still as perfectly etched as they were in 2006, and the chemistry is intact, the jokes often seem to be trying a little hard.
There is a certain amount of growing up that the series has managed to do. The web format lets the writers crack more grown-up jokes, something that has so far been unexpected in the Sarabhai universe.
The episodes are worth a watch, and not just for the nostalgia factor. When Dushyant calls his father-in-law in the middle of the night for advice about investing in the ballistic missile submarine, the contact name on Indravadan’s phone is “I’ll explain” – a small but effective nugget of humour. There are more of these sprinkled across the new episodes.
A minor gripe is that the web series has done away with Usha Uthup’s iconic title track. It did a perfect job of setting the context for the show and is still very sticky, but isn’t a part of Take 2.
A new episode is out on Hotstar every Monday. Additionally, a five-seven minute short video is released every Friday to keep up the momentum for the rest of the week. This series is called Crazy Fridays, but so far the short videos haven’t been too crazy or too much fun. There are more episodes to be aired, and perhaps the show will reach the comedic brilliance of the initial run soon enough.