It’s perhaps fitting that Ekta Kapoor’s digital platform ALTBalaji would create a show called The Great Indian Dysfunctional Family, given that its parent company Balaji Telefilms is behind some of Indian television’s most dysfunctional—and wildly popular—clans.
In the new web series, the family in question is the Ranauts, who live together in uneasy calm in the small town of Kanoori in North India. There’s bad-tempered Vikram (Kay Kay Menon), his stoner mother Premlata (Swaroop Sampat), his harried wife Geeta and their children, the rebellious teenaged Aditi (Sanaya Pithawalla) and Mridul, their speech-impaired, eight-year-old son. The return of Vikram’s younger brother Samar (Barun Sobti) and his wife Sonali (Eisha Chopra) after eight years of being away, is the catalyst that causes all the delicately tucked away family secrets to finally come tumbling out.
Much like the trailer, the first episode sets a tone that suggests the show will be a black comedy that doesn’t take itself too seriously. However, a couple of episodes in, it tends to veer more towards a melodramatic vibe that’s reminiscent of Kapoor’s famous ‘K’ series—complete with slo-mo and a wailing soundtrack. The attempts at comedy then end up feeling quite incongruous, and this lack of consistency only gets more jarring as the show progresses.
"At its heart, TGIDF is essentially a thinly veiled masala film broken into 10 parts. The plot twists aren’t always particularly logical, but if you’re willing to frequently suspend disbelief, the show is entertaining in a voyeuristic sort of way. "
Kay Kay Menon is immensely enjoyable as the caustic, homophobic and chauvinistic former army man who spares no opportunity to issue jibes and barely concealed sarcasm at the smallest perceived slight.
"As the family matriarch who takes the concept of high tea all too literally, Swaroop Sampat provides comic relief, but is underutilized. "
Her penchant for marijuana-infused brews means she spends most of the show checked out mentally, only to resurface towards the end as a predictable means to tie the show together.
Eisha Chopra holds her own as the outspoken Sonali, who can’t resist meddling in family matters, as does Shriswara as the long-suffering Geeta. Barun Sobti puts his experience in television to good use and inhabits his character quite naturally. Though she’s given one of the main plot points, Sanaya Pithawalla offers a performance that is erratic and often falters.
Beyond its contemporary packaging, TGIDF doesn’t reinvent the wheel. But it’s entertaining nonetheless much in a way that watching a mindless Bollywood flick is.
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