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Will the new Gutthi work?

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Even as Sunil ‘Gutthi’ Grover’s recent exit from Colors’ popular show, Comedy Nights with Kapil, continues to be grist for rumour mills, the latest development flies in the face of all speculation that ‘Gutthi’ will no longer be part of the series.

Promos doing the rounds since last week on the channel show Palak, Gutthi’s on-screen sister, searching high and low for the missing Gutthi didi, leading us at indiantelevision.com to believe that while Grover is out, Gutthi may return, with some other actor playing the part.

This wouldn’t be the first such instance when a popular TV character has been replaced. But examples from the past such as Smriti ‘Tulsi’ Irani in Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi and Kavita ‘Inspector Chandramukhi Chautala’ Kaushik in FIR go to show that whenever actors who play important characters walk out from the show, they are either brought back on public demand or the show’s popularity dips because they are no longer part of it.

With this background in mind, we spoke to a cross-section of industry to understand whether the new ‘Gutthi’ would fill the void left by Grover’s ouster.

 Said Big Synergy director Anita Kaul Basu: “The original is the original. You might do variations to it, but it is actually the original that stays. It is how a person as an actor plays that character. He brings in his own individuality. One can bring ten other people with the same name, but it is this guy who has made the difference with a personal and intimate approach. There is only one ‘Gutthi’ and that is Sunil Grover. You can get 10 other ‘Gutthi’s’ but that is not going to cut ice.”

On the other hand, media planners are of the view that the show is more important than its characters. They spoke of actress Ketki Dave, best known for her turn as Daksha ‘a ra ra ra’ Virani and how Kyunki... survived for eight long years even after she quit the soap.

Madison Media COO Karthik Lakhsminarayan echoed similar views. “This kind of female character never lasts long. Lots of cases keep on happening but consumers keep such cases aside and move on. Finally, the show is larger than any individual. People do not worry about all this; of course, they are affected for some time, but that is not the end of the story. It is the show that holds audiences and not the character,” he said.

But won’t Comedy Nights with Kapil, currently clocking 7,000-8,000 TVTs, lose its charm without Grover? “It all depends on who the new actor is. You cannot predict it at all. But it is not even impossible; anybody can take anybody’s place. It definitely depends on who’s doing it and how he plays with the character. Of course, nobody can copy him; nobody can do whatever he has done. By contrast, you never know the one who comes might be better than him or as good as him. In the past too, we have seen a lot of characters being replaced - all established performers,” reasoned Sunshine Productions producer Sudhir Sharma.

Drawing a parallel to another chart-leading Colors’ show,Baalika Vadhu, he said: “In Baalika Vadhu, when Anandi was replaced, people thought the show might go off-air, but if you look at the show now, it is doing extremely well. It is the chart-topper. Add to that, Ganga too has now been replaced so it all depends on a case-to-case basis.”

Comedy Circus, producer Vipul D Shah exults: “I always believe that it is the combination of an actor and the character. The show can get somebody better than Sunil. I am confident that the new actor will also be able to take ‘Gutthi’ to another level. Sunil has played this kind of role even Comedy Circus and he is fantastic. At the end of the day we are talking about mannerism, dialogue delivery and characterization. If the new character has all these elements, it will grow as popular as Sunil. You know that nobody can do better than ‘Gutthi’, but suddenly you realise that there is a replacement to the character and as an audience you have to accept whatever comes along our way.”

According to sources, Grover, who charmed his way into audiences’ hearts as the original ‘Gutthi’ of Comedy Nights with Kapil, quit the show over creative differences and Colors’ refusal to give him the remuneration hike he felt he deserved. When rumours surfaced that he was planning to launch a show on a rival Hindi GEC woven round ‘Gutthi’, Colors’ panicked and fired a public notice in leading newspapers saying whosoever attempted to launch or be associated in any way with ‘Gutthi’ would be dragged to court. The channel’s claim over a character from one of its shows attracted much debate till Grover went public saying he had every right over the character as he had created it in the first place.

While we cannot comment on whether Colors is right or Grover, we can certainly wait and watch to see who fits into Grover’s rather large ‘Gutthi’ shoes...

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