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Friday, 27 April, 2001, 14:37 GMT 15:37 UK
India says Yes Minister
Minister Singh and advisers
The Hindi version faithfully follows the original
By the BBC's Sanjeev Srivastava in Bombay

The first episode of Ji Mantriji - the Hindi adaptation of BBC classic 80s political comedy Yes Minister - has received a good response from primetime TV viewers as well as critics.

It had its first showing on an Indian satellite TV channel on Thursday night.

The show faithfully follows all the 38 episodes of the original, which starred Nigel Hawthorne and Paul Eddington.

The actors, of course, are Indians with Farooque Sheikh, a TV and Bollywood veteran with a flair for comedy, playing the minister's role (Jim Hacker) and well known stage artiste, Jayant Kriplani, donning the bureaucrat's garb.

Like the original, Ji Mantriji is a satirical look at India's colourful political canvas and bizarre political characters.

Derek Fowlds, Paul Eddington and Nigel Hawthorne
The way they were: The original Yes Minister cast

Surya Prakash Singh , a newly appointed minister, is determined to make his mark by changing things around and takes his party's pronouncements about giving a "khuli sarkar" (open government) too much on face value.

He may have still had his way but for the secretary who is determined to puncture all efforts of his minister to change things.

Change, for the Indian bureaucrat, is anathema but it could also jeopardise his privileged position.

The first episode was a lively one, starting with a snap shot of a TV journalist announcing the election victory of Surya Prakash Singh (Farooque Sheikh).

Next was the rib-tickling sequence about Singh waiting for a call from the prime minister to join his cabinet. Instead, he keeps getting wrong numbers and even gets a call from his plumber reminding him of an unpaid bill.

The prime minister's call finally comes and Singh is sworn in.

But when he talks of changing the way in which his ministry functions and trimming bureaucracy, his secretary plays a master stroke which results in the nine-day old minister possibly facing sacking orders from the prime minister.

When the situation is almost getting out of hand and Singh's exit looks imminent, the secretary emerges as a saviour thus ensuring Singh's complete dependance on the bureaucrat for his survival.

The serial is a refreshing change to the family soaps and mythological serials which abound on Indian TV

Ji Mantriji

Subhash Jha, TV critic for The Statesman newspaper, gave the show a favourable write-up.

"I think both the main actors have been extremely well cast," he said.

"There is a comic aspect to Farooque's character but he does not come across as a bumbling fool.

"In fact, he is quite loveable, just like in the original. Jayant Kriplani is the perfect foil and brings his years of stage experience to the role.

"The serial is a refreshing change to the family soaps and mythological serials which abound on Indian TV. Ji Mantriji is a clean comedy which allows us to laugh at the expense of our politicians,."

And one of India's best known TV critics, Amita Malick, also found the first episode enjoyable, despite the canned laughter.

"It's sure to catch on with the audience," she said.

"The casting is good, dialogues are racy and the wit of the original has been kept intact.

"The only bit slightly annoying is the overdose of canned laughter. It's like questioning the intelligence of the Indian viewer," she added.

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