IMAGE: STILL FROM HELLO FRIENDS
American sitcom FRIENDS is a big hit even decades after it aired its last episode in May 2004. The show featuring David Schwimmer, Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Matthew Perry, Lisa Kudrow, and Matt LeBlanc, is still binge-watched by its die-hard fandom on the online streaming site, Netflix. But did you know, FRIENDS also had a desi version which was a full-fledged remake of the show with the title Hello Friends. Five years after the American version was launched in 1994, Zee TV cloned the show in 1999. As FRIENDS Reunion special episode airs on Zee5 on May 27, 2021, let us revisiting its desi clone below.
Zee TV's Hello Friends is a blatant copy of the iconic sitcom FRIENDS that was made in India in the year 1999. While the American version continued to garner love from its dedicated fans, the Indian version turned out to be cringeworthy. Hello Friends featured VJs Cyrus Broacha, Maria Goretti, and Nikhil Chinapa in the lead roles, along with Simone Singh, Anil Dimri, and Aparna Bannerjee.
Hello Friends' episodes are available on YouTube. The episodes are copied with the characters being replicated - Joey, Chandler, Monica, Joey, Ross, and Phoebe. After several minutes of watching the desi version, one may realise the actors are mouthing the same dialogues in the Hindi language.
Cyrus can be seen reprising the character of Chandler. He plays a copywriter with an almost dry sense of humour. Simone plays the perfectionist, Monica, with Nikhil portraying her brother Vikram (Ross from the original version). Amit plays the struggling actor (Joey), while Maria plays Penny (Phoebe). The coffee house, Central Perk, has been recreated as Uncle Sam's Cafe, for the 'desi friends' to hang out. FRIENDS' grumpy worker at the cafe, Gunther, is played by Kunal Vijaykar.
Many die-hard fans of FRIENDS were heartbroken to realise that the makers of Hello Friends copied the entire script, its set, characters with their background stories. The strategy to come up with the Indian version miserably failed even after considering Indian culture such as Vikram's wife was not shown as a lesbian, Vikram is a geek and not a palaeontologist like Ross. Simone, too, was shown as an outfit designer instead of a chef like Monica.
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