One laugh that has the power to change so many lives and fortunes.
So first, about the laugh!
It is not easy to describe this laugh in words. At first hear, it almost sounds like a donkey braying, but that’s obviously what it is not! The laugh actually starts a little softly, but then quickly reaches a crescendo, with a staccato of 4-5 “he-he-he”‘s. And despite the fact that Mrs. Daya Gada laughs like this at least once during each episode, it almost always appears spontaneous. You can tell by just looking at her eyes, which never stop twinkling through the entire length of the laugh. It is obvious that Daya is having a blast and perhaps that’s the precise reason why this laugh is so infectious. When Daya Gada laughs, you laugh…it’s very, very difficult not to.
Now, about the lives and fortunes!
This laugh has definitely changed the fortunes of Ms. Disha Vakani, who plays Daya Gada, a “from-the-village-shifted-to-the-city” MTM (Maniben trying to be Mod), who speaks before she thinks, but is not a dimwit (a difficult balancing act), unlike for example, Supriya Pathak’s character in Instant Khichdi. In fact at times, Daya actually turns the tables on her husband, whose favorite response to most Dayaisms, is the retort, “nonsense”. Considering that Ms. Vakani’s filmography till date is quite forgettable, she has obviously seized this opportunity with her hands, legs and every other appendage that she has and immersed herself completely into the Daya Gada character with full abandon, hamming away to glory with a classic Gujju/Kathiawari/Kutchhi accent that works perfectly despite the “loud” performance.
Her laugh has also brought into the limelight, Mr. Tarak Mehta, a popular Gujarati writer, whose column “Duniyane Undha Chashma”, which translates loosely into “seeing the world through upside-down glasses”, in the weekly Chitralekha, is the basis for this sitcom, “Tarak Mehta ka Ooltah Chashma” (TMOC).
Daya’s laugh is one of the main reasons for the success of TMOC. The sitcom may be in Hindi, but it is Gujarati and Kutchhi at heart, with many community touch-points that I suspect often bounce over the heads of non-Gujju, non-Kutchhi viewers. TMOC’s thrust is supposed to be its so-called social message and theme, especially with respect to Tapu, Daya Gada’s son, Daya actually being just a minor character in the weekly column. However, Ms. Vakani has made Daya’s persona so popular and powerful that TMOC’s focus has now quietly shifted more and more towards Daya Gada and her antics.
This laugh is also one of the reasons for the altered perception of the channel on which TMOC airs. SAB TV till date has been just another channel at the periphery of our consciousness, with no real claim to fame, except perhaps for the sitcom “FIR”, which incidentally also stars another very interesting woman character. In the crowded space of general-purpose Hindi channels, populated by Star Plus, NDTV Imagine, Colors, Real, Zee and Sony, all battling for “saas-bahu”, “orphan/widowed children” and “song-dance reality show” eyeballs, SAB seems to have broken away, by focusing on “comedy” serials and sitcoms. Of all the sitcoms airing currently, TMOC is undoubtedly the best and probably the most popular, having actually managed to draw away viewers from “Jai Shri Krishna” on Colors, which also airs during the same 8.30PM slot.
The power of one laugh.
The Daya Gada Laugh