Janaab Call My Agent Bollywood Is a Shitshow No Mohtarma Should Watch

To quote my friend, ‘Everyday the world gives me signs that I need to quit my job and apply for a job at Netflix.’

It appears that Netflix India has a lot, in fact, an obscene amount of money to waste. Hence it invests that obscene amount in even more obscene shows such as Call My Agent Bollywood, something so poorly written, it shouldn’t have cleared any reasonable school of writing.

Yes, it’s a remake of the French show, Call My Agent! (original title Dix Pour Cent), which I believe is absolutely brilliant. Now Bollywood certainly calls for a remake, and an honest setting and telling would have been lovely. But for director Shaad Ali and writers Abbas Dalal-Hussain Dalal to fail so spectacularly is ghastly. Are they Bollywood first-timers? No. Have they never watched Hindi movies or been part of Bollywood? No. Are they unintelligent nincompoops? I’m hoping no. Are they far, far removed from reality? A RESOUNDING YES.

Perhaps they thought it’s about time we had a national integration, ‘Mile Sur Mera Tumhara’ turn on a streaming platform. Thus, we have a female Christian veteran agent who prefers being called a ‘star maker’ who’s single and carries her dog to work and everywhere else; a male Hindu Punjabi veteran agent who appears to be happily married, but is kinda shady; a female Muslim quick-to-anger-foul-mouthed-cigar-smoking-promiscuous-lesbian agent (who also wants her male Parsi colleague’s sperm); and a mostly inept, but seemingly sensitive male Parsi agent. Each of them could have been replaced by their own life-size cardboard cutouts and nobody would’ve noticed because the acting and writing is subpar. Heck, even subpar is a euphemism for the garbage that the show is.

If Call My Agent Bollywood is supposed to be a massive satire on what Bollywood agents are really like, and how actors/ directors behave or throw tantrums, it does so in the most uninventive way. To throw in ageism and surgery, an unfunny attempt at repeatedly mispronouncing kalarippayattu, rivalry, infidelity, fraught mother-daughter relationships, lovers’ tiffs — nothing seems earnest. The show has zero redeeming qualities. Zero. And anyone ought to feel mad rage should they choose to endure it.

The writers also clearly have no idea about HOW lesbians behave or how they flirt. I’m sorry but I’ve seen cis-het men flirt better compared to how the lesbians flirt on this show. The lesbian couple is also the only one to get a LOT of action, and because I want to assume the writers are heterosexual, THIS is their idea of titillation. Why is it difficult to flesh out queer characters in 2021? Have the makers watched shows like Sex Education to understand how to write characters one can relate to? Heck, forget Sex Education. Even the long-running Grey’s Anatomy has people and situations that one can empathise with. Call My Agent Bollywood is so tackily done, it’s borderline offensive to any reasonable and rational human being.

Not to forget the glossing over of what ought to qualify as workplace harassment. The sarees worn by the auditor who chooses to sleep with the employee of the company she’s auditing are the ugliest sarees I’ve ever seen in my entire life. It’s very difficult to make a saree look unattractive, and this show has managed to do that. This is the lesbian relationship that should never be replicated in any life by any living being.

I’m also hugely disappointed in all my Muslim friends and colleagues for never ever, ever ever using words such as ‘janaab’ and ‘mohtarma’ in our conversations. And we’ve had many conversations. Several. As has already been said by fellow viewers, if we took a shot each time the lone Muslim character on the show utters janaab and mohtarma, we’d all have to be hospitalised because of liver cirrhosis. It baffles me because the director and the writers of the show are Muslim. How could THEY get it so wrong?

Hindi cinema viewers would recall how in the days of yore, if a man were to get attracted to a woman, her saree pallu would fall, revealing her nice cleavage. Nope, not for writers Abbas and Hussain. They thought it’d be funny to get a young female fall ON a photocopying machine, somehow getting a printout of her cleavage, which would then be seen by a young man. And boom, he’s attracted to her! Such writers and directors need to have their writing-directing rights suspended for some time.

It’s not the bad writing alone that’s outrageous, it’s even the performances. Everybody is dreadful. Soni Razdan, Rajat Kapoor, Aahana Kumra, Ayush Mehra are awful, yes. Even the cameos are miserable. Everyone should’ve been replaced by cardboard cutouts, which may well have emoted better.

Towards the end of the show, Soni’s character tells Aahana’s character that they should go watch a bad movie so that they can feel better about their lives and themselves. I wouldn’t suggest watching even one episode of this show no matter how bad your life seems currently.

Again, Netflix India has an obscene amount of money that it doesn’t really care about. This show should NOT get another season.

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Shreya Sethuraman

Shreya Sethuraman

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