CID and the enduring legacy of ?Daya darwaza tod do?

By Poulomi Das

BP Singh’s CID, the Indian detective series headlined by our favorite trio, ACP Pradyuman, Abhijeet, and Daya, has been on air for twenty years now. The show’s massive popularity was proof of the fact that it was a comedy special ahead of its time.

In 1998, a seemingly innocent phrase uttered by a dashing police officer in a crime show captured the attention of over a billion Indians.
“Daya darwaza tod do.”

The show was BP Singh’s CID, an Indian detective series headlined by an elite trio of officers: ACP Pradyuman, Daya, and Abhijeet (first names only). It launched to instant popularity – after all, there were limited choices on TV in 1998 – but over the years became mandatory viewing. The premise of the anthology series was surprisingly generic: It unfolded like a procedural, where a group of officers solve various crimes with generous help from the greatest forensic expert in the country, i.e. Dr Salunkhe. The trio’s adventures were also laced with jokes at the expense of Fredricks, the resident clown, and the lowest rung in the CID chain.

One of the constants sights of their ingenious criminal-hunting, crime-solving strategy comprised a move that was essentially Daya (a thirst-trap ahead of his time. #90sKidsWillRemember) carrying out a surgical strike on locked doors. During their pursuit, a locked door always (ALWAYS) presented itself between the team and the criminal. The ACP would first glare at it, with the camera zooming onto his face to catch his eyebrows doing a peculiar CID-approved dance and only then would he turn to Daya, and utter the four glorious words: “Daya, darwaza tod do.” (Daya, break that door!)

Over the years, I have cheered enthusiastically every time I’ve heard this cult catchphrase on screen. I have exploited it as small talk, accommodated it in jokes, and even broken ice with random strangers by praising it. I’m surrounded by friends and colleagues who do the same, referencing it in their daily conversations as effortlessly as ACP Pradyuman would repeat “Kuch toh gadbad hai” unfailingly at every crime scene. In fact, 20 years later today, I’m certain that no comedy special can make me laugh harder than someone attempting to imitate breaking open a door with their “dhai kilo ka” leg like Officer Daya. In fact, CID was a comedy special even before Netflix knew what comedy specials were.

The show was not only impossible to dislike, but also pointless to parody, because it is a self-aware unabashed parody of itself.

That’s precisely why a show like CID has sustained frighteningly low attention spans and the Netflix-and-Chill revolution to become India’s longest-running show, beating mainstream masala fare like Ekta Kapoor’s Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi or rib-tickling comedies like Sarabhai Vs Sarabhai. While the former self-combusted under the weight of its characters rebirths, multiple marriages, and Baa’s 67973th year of existence, the latter sacrificed its very essence by adapting to the demands of modern culture.

The makers of CID, on the other hand, did no such thing: They stuck to its very Indianised detective template – overacting, fake blood, catchphrases – that appealed to viewers. The show’s single-minded focus is to be TV’s version of “dal chawal”; fare that you can turn to on any given day, and one that is designed to survive any disaster, apocalypse, or alien invasion.

In the universe of the show, normal police officers don’t exist. It’s either CID or nothing.

The show’s cult appeal also stems from its infinitely likable and low-budget charm that oozes out of every episode, its facepalm quotient ably camouflaged by its unintentional humor. Take for instance, how accessible the makers have made the premier intelligence and investigation wing. In almost every one of the episodes, people are shown to have CID on speed dial as if it’s the number of their plumber. Random visitors pop in with their troubles unannounced, while some turn to the CID for even the most trivial of queries. In the universe of the show, normal police officers don’t exist. It’s either CID or nothing.

The show’s IDGAF levels are so high that sometimes it didn’t even bother thinking of a fictional name for some of its characters: Dayanand Shetty became Daya, and Vivek Mashru became Vivek. And then there is procedure itself: Ever noticed how all the episodes start off with the team zeroing in on the wrong suspect before realizing their folly just in the nick of time? That’s a sweet spot, where the writers take their show seriously, without taking themselves seriously.

The ACP’s penchant for pointing out the obvious is proof of that. No episode in CID is complete without his oddly comforting splattering of “Yeh toh laash hai” (This is a dead body), or “Matlab khooni koi aur hai?” (So the murderer is someone else?). He even had a fixed routine of getting Fredricks to confirm how dead the obviously dead body is. Only when he would go “Sir, she’s dead” would the show really begin.

Even better evidence of CID’s complete dedication to investigative entertainment comes on the back of this one viral scene where the trio rush into a terrace to find a girl about to jump. As the girl jumps from the terrace, Abhijeet runs to save her and by some magical time-defying leap, manages to fall further than her despite jumping after her. While this is happening, Daya, prompt as ever, gets hold of a rope that’s just casually chilling on the terrace floor and throws it toward Abhijeet, who catches the rope with one hand, while saving the girl with the other. I mean, how can any show, stunt or a sequel of Krrish ever top that?

As of today, ACP Pradyuman, Daya and Abhijeet’s three-way bromance (despite the occasional crush-track with Tarika or Purvi) is officially in its 21st year. That’s a feat that’s well-nigh impossible for any show. But CID’s uninterrupted relevance and its permanent residence in our hearts can be quite aptly summed up in an ACP Pradyuman-ism: “Koi bach nahi sakta humse.” Here’s to another 21 years of watching CID.

This article was originally published on Arre.

Featured image: Shruti Yatam via Arre