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Monday, July 23, 2001

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Dipped in vitriol


Any attempt at adapting a firang movie or TV serial is fraught with the danger of being compared with the original. More often than not, the adaptation is found wanting. So it must have taken some courage for Alok Tomar and Monisha Shah to attempt a desi version of the BBC classic, `Yes, Minister'.

The results are there for all to see on TV. But for those who have no patience for the idiot box, Penguin India has brought out the first volume of `Ji Mantriji'.

This compilation of seven episodes from the TV serial is as good a read as any. Perhaps the written word brings forth the trials not the tribulations of Suryaprakash Singh, minister of administration, better than the visual images we have seen on the lit tle screen. The age-old tussle between the bureaucracy and their political masters is brought out with notes from the diaries of the hapless minister and secretaries in the Government. The script is punctuated with comments from the editor.

It is in its barbed sarcasm that Ji Mantriji scores. It brings out with great effect the arrogance of civil servants who hold the politician in very low esteem. In Ji Mantriji, Suryaprakash bumbles along even as the bureaucrats around him plot and plan t o tame him.

It's all done in the style of Jonathan Lynn and Anthony Jay, whose lighthearted look at the functioning of the British bureaucracy for the BBC was brought out as a book with much success.

Tomar and Shah have not done too badly. The only complaint is that while the English original packed in all the episodes into one volume, the desi one comes in instalments. Perhaps a complete Ji Mantriji is in order. Nevertheless, a good book to buy.

Ji Mantriji Volume I

Publishers: Penguin India

Price: Rs 195

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Next: A typical Twain twist
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