What happens when you decide to adapt ‘The Office’ for India? You end up with ‘Better Life Foundation’, the latest web series produced by Them Boxer Shorts and released by All India Bakchod.
What’s it about?
The series, like in ‘The Office’, has a documentary crew following the employees of an NGO called the Better Life Foundation as it struggles to raise funds, clear hurdles and generally make the world a better place.
Neil Menon (Naveen Richard), is a good Malayali boy with good intentions, who has started an NGO with his friend Jerry Pinto (Utsav Chakraborty) thanks to an inheritance from a dead uncle. While they struggle with almost every task they take up, the NGO is run by Sumukhi Chawla (Sumukhi Suresh), the driven programme co-ordinator. There’s also an accountant Anirban Sengupta (Kumar Varun) and an intern Aditi Goyal (Sindhu Sreenivasa Murthy) who constitute the full office staff. Armaan Garewal (Kanan Gill) is also there in all six episodes as a smarmy guy serving community sentence for drunk driving.
What happens in it?
The series follows the NGO team as they try to rustle up funds for a toilet complex in Dharavi, get approval for foreign funding, attend an NGO award show, survive a CBI raid and a financial scandal.
- Not surprisingly, the humour. It’s not the kind that will have you laughing in your chair, but the kind that will leave you smiling.
- So you have things like the Mallu guy trying to talk in Hindi, his friend who’s an idiot being an idiot, the accountant who does shady things on the side and the sensible programme co-ordinator will keep you smiling through the series.
- The acting is top notch and despite the contrived scenarios, is the only thing that keeps you hooked. Richard and Menon stand out for their performances as the guys who run the NGO. Gill, the best known face in the group, does pull off the smug, rich brat act pretty well as he keeps doing things to get out of community service. Chakraborty and Varun also manage to bring some credibility to the roles of the NGO co-founder and accountant, despite the characters being cartoonish versions of real life people. Murthy has little to do, but is likeable as the idealistic intern.
- The show makes not-so-veiled barbs at the government’s targeting of NGOs, the paranoia over the Prime Minister and cartoons, government offices and of course, NGOs. And it’s clever.
- It’s got one major problem: nothing feels authentic about this NGO.
- Unlike ‘The Office’, which had quirky characters navigating real life, the Better Life Foundation is a cartoonish version of an NGO. If characters like Jerry Pinto or Neil Menon run an NGO, they’d better have a political godfather backing them or they’d crash and burn. The show aims to be believable, but at the end of every episode you have to hope no NGO you’ve ever donated to is run like the Better Life Foundation.
- It’s not an AIB production which means the only link you have to them is the presence of Tanmay Bhat at the end credits, so don’t watch it thinking you’ll be seeing the entire crew on the show.
You can watch the series starting with the first episode here: