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The importance of being ACP Pradyuman
Shivaji Satam, the actor who's played the cult cop in CID for 15 years, is rumoured to be quitting the show, much to the dismay of his fans.
God, this gentleman in a blue velvet coat is convinced, sleeps late on Fridays and Saturdays. On those two nights, for the past 15 years, the divine entity has been turning on the television to watch a team of Indian cops in plain clothes (if you can call a blazer plain) place their hands on their hips and solve seemingly complex murder cases within an hour.
Since 1998, this uber-efficient squad of sleuths has travelled in a white Qualis, asked one another somewhat juvenile questions in dramatic close-up shots and analyse fingerprints simply by pressing Ctrl+Alt. The face of this bureau is this very gentleman in the blue blazer - an ACP named Pradyuman whose trademark scowl has made CID television's longest-running show. It might disappear soon though.
Shivaji Satam, the man who turned ACP Pradyuman into a cult figure with his unique scowl and gestures like putting his index finger to his temple while thinking, is said to be on his way out. And the news has been making CID fans perspire like the show's criminals do under its severe, interrogatory bulb.
Satam, however, simply laughs at the suggestion that he should now be drawing a pension for his CID tenure, and neither confirms nor denies the reports. "It is sub-judice, " he smiles. The 62-year-old filmed a scene with Aamir Khan for a recent episode where he points to the pencil sketch, flashes that famous frown and wonders how such a frail girl could have committed murder. The sketch shows only the face. After the scene, he asks for some lip balm in a normal tone. Clearly, the exaggerated gestures and dialogue are switched on for the camera.
Some of these gestures belong to his close friend and director of CID, B P Singh. On the first day of the shoot, Satam observed Singh walking up to the 'dead body' bobbing in the sea at Juhu Beach. "I saw him encircle the body, inspect it closely from all sides and realised that he was judging his camera angles, " says Satam, who decided to simply "copy" it while playing ACP Pradyuman. Singh loved the outcome. "That's when I realised I had cracked the character of ACP Pradyuman, " says Satam, who added more to the character with his habit of unknowingly raising his hand and dropping it during discussions. "It was a stupid gesture, " Satam admits, but Singh immediately had it down as Pradyuman's quirk.
In CID, Pradyuman wears a blazer and tie to distinguish himself from the other team members like Daya the brawny one;Abhijeet the anchor;and Vivek, the computer geek in a chequered-shirt. The camaraderie among the actors who, sometimes work as many as 29 days a month, is evident. "It is a men's club, " says the actor, adding that sometimes lines lead to innuendos, sending them into giggling fits.
Though Satam had played a cop in the successful Marathi serial Ek Shunya Shunya before the stint as ACP Pradyuman, he did not have any reference points for the portrayal. But it helped that he harboured a childlike awe for men in khaki. As the son of a middle-class Maharashtrian textile mill worker, Satam spent his childhood in a chawl in Byculla. Here, he would often peer into the window of the police chowky nearby and catch fleeting glances of cops belting criminals. "Men in uniform look handsome, " says Satam, who even remembers his father's friend Sadanand Parab - then a senior inspector who had a moustache and hair reminiscent of Hollywood actor Clark Gable. Satam was also one of those kids who, when asked to imitate cops, would immediately puff their chests and assume an authoritative swagger.
Besides being an amalgam of these young impressions, ACP Pradyuman's persona bears the unmistakable stamp of Marathi theatre. "The rolling of the eyes, the voice modulation - all come from my theatre background, " says Satam, who portrayed King Richard in a Robin Hood play while serving as a clerk in Central Bank of India. Here, like ACP, he refused to get promoted. "I did not take up supervisory roles, as that would mean less time for theatre, " says Satam, who participated in inter-bank competitions thanks to the lenient bosses who allowed him to come in early or work late while rehearsing for plays. His theatre work eventually landed him a role in Ek Shunya Shunya, where he met director B P Singh, then a cameraman.
B P Singh has admitted that many of the CID plots are "believable nonsense". Satam is also well aware of how easily this nonsense coupled with his expressions and lines such as "Kuch to gadbad hai" lend themselves to YouTube parodies and online memes. His nephew unfailingly sends him those. In fact, recently, two actors from a popular comedy show on TV even apologised to him for mimicking him. But Satam treats it all as "a left-handed compliment". Justifying the loudness and easy accessibility of the show, he says, "CID is like a children's alphabet book. "
It has good reason to be. Most of its fans are kids such as ten-year-old Mihir, who insists on getting "a new ACP suit" every birthday. Some even want to grow up to be ACP Pradyuman. Besides, fans also include Lata Mangeshkar, who invites the cast home and chats with them regularly over tea. The secret is perhaps the crime show's innocent, old-world appeal, guesses Satam, adding that CID avoids touching upon crimes against women and graphic stuff, keeping the profile of the viewers in mind.
In terms of nature, Satam - who won a national award for his role in the Marathi film Uttarayan and has played a host of intense roles in Hindi films such as Vaastav - finds CID closer to reality than most Hindi serials where "maharanis sleep with jewellery on". Today, along with the nature of crime, the show too has grown to accommodate technology, exotic locales and celebrity cameos. Routinely, at malls, when they get mobbed, B P Singh directs the crowd by instructing actors to move to different corners after a scene.
Though he likes to say that the show will go on "till God stops watching", Satam is mum on ACP's plans to retire. His caller tune might offer a hint though. Here, a man with a Malayalee accent, says: "The person you are trying to urgently reach is having a tender coconut on the beach. He is having a good time, just leave him alone."
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