In the midst of the current glut of sex-intrigue-and-testosterone-fuelled shows, masquerading as intelligent content on the web, along comes a sparkling gem that stands out, starkly and proudly, on the strength of its stellar storytelling and effortless humour. The defining show that succeeds in whipping up rarefied levels of feelings, emotions and sentiments in its viewers, with the consummate ease of a virtuoso.
Ladies and gentlemen, allow me the honour of presenting to you that one-in-a-million paragon in the world of digital content– TVF’s latest, Yeh Meri Family.
After a lacklustre year of okayish content, TVF makes a thrilling return to the peak of its heartstring- tugging powers, with this poignant, joyful, coming-of-age story about a family of five, set in Jaipur.
The series is subtitled, ‘The Summer of 98’– a ploy that immediately grabs attention. Set in the nineties, 1998 to be precise, the series harks back to a time that was delightfully uncomplicated and charmingly unpretentious. When all of it took to excite pubescent boys was the prospect of watching Karishma Kapoor’s smooch in Raja Hindustani; and when crushes were checked out by that silly game of FLAMES, and Debonair and Fashion TV fired many a teenaged boy’s wet dreams.
The series focuses on the antics of the Gupta family, which comprises a mostly chilled out, but sometimes pissed off father; a mostly caring, but sometimes annoyed, mother; and their mostly angelic, but sometimes impish, children- the eldest son- studious, consistent topper, Dabbu; the youngest- the cute as a button daughter, Chitthi; and the quintessential middle kid- sulky, spoilt, Harshu. Harshu is the main protagonist and narrator, and we see the entire story through his eyes.
Harshu is blasé and unapologetically unscrupulous. He thinks nothing before stealing a couple of hundred bucks from his dad’s pocket, throws a fit when forced to change his birthday plans to accommodate his mother’s plans for his birthday, and gets into slanging matches with Dabbu, more often than not.
He also has a huge crush on Vidya, his classmate in school, and is ready to sacrifice his summer vacation evenings to sit through boring Hindi tuitions in her company.
Then there’s Shanky- Harshu’s friend, philosopher and guide; his classmate and best friend; and also his go-to trouble-shooter for the myriad problems faced by his young, thirteen-year-old self. Shanky spouts truisms with the skill of a pundit, disseminates gyaan with the expertise of an accomplished guru and hands out life-hacks that could put the best self-help experts to shame. He’s the Paul to Harshu’s Kevin Arnold. In more ways than one, Yeh Meri Family is a nod to that seminal classic, The Wonder Years. It bears a striking resemblance to the eighties’ show, in premise and in characterisation.
But that’s about where the similarities end. Coz, Yeh Meri Family is palpably different in treatment and sensibility. The series showcases a distinctive Indian ethos, hitting a nerve here, touching a chord there, with its powerful play on emotions and familial love.
Season 1 of the series consists of seven episodes, each one touching on the sublime poignancy of close family relationships- the love-hate relationship between the two brothers, sibling love as seen in the brothers’ love for their tiny little sister and even for each other, the parents-kids relationship, and the like. An absolutely enjoyable episode is the one in which Harshu is consumed by shame before his peers, due to his father’s obesity, but ends up idolizing him when he hits a six off the dreaded neighbourhood fast bowler. Particularly interesting is the song that plays in the background as Harshu looks up at his father, eyes full of veneration- ‘tumko dekha, toh yeh khayal aaya; zindagi dhoop, tum ghana saaya’. Never has this number been used to such poignant effect before– guaranteed to squeeze a tear or two out of the most stoic-hearted of individuals. The episode ends with the sparkly line- ‘Papa cool dikhte nahi, papa cool hain’– and we’re slayed.
And this is just a sample, dear friends. The entire series is replete with sharp one-liners and sparkling witticisms- some funny, some touching, but all armed with the power to delight. The writing and direction of the show is exceptionally good. The attention to detail is astounding, with not a single shot hitting a discordant note with the theme and setting of the show. We’re literally teleported to the nineties– watching in wide-eyed wonder, feeling with every pore of our being– as wave upon tender wave of wistful nostalgia engulfs us in its gentle embrace– nostalgia for the time that was.
Creator-director, Sameer Saxena, and writer, Saurabh Khanna, deserve all the accolades that the series has notched up by the gazillion, with every passing day since release.
Another stand-out element of the show is its brilliant, brilliant casting. Every character is so perfectly etched out and each actor chosen with such care, that they fit into their roles perfectly, like a particularly comfortable glove. A very special mention is due for Vishesh Bansal, for his wholly flawless rendition of Harshu. He captures perfectly, the finer nuances of the nineties’ kid on the threshold of growing up. Another notable mention here for Prasad Reddy, as Shanky. He owns the show the moment he opens his mouth, grabs our complete attention from the beginning, and holds it till the very end. A class act, that one!
Akarsh Khurana is brilliant as the father. He’s the calm in the chaos, the voice of reason in the cacophony of teenaged life. He’s the rock that anchors the familial boat. He’s also a financial consultant, advising his clients on the specifics of mutual funds, and the benefits of staying invested.
Since the show is made in collaboration with the Association of Mutual Funds in India (AMFI), owners of the trademark, Mutual Funds…Sahi Hai, this is a wonderful way to incorporate the entity into the proceedings, without resorting to in-your-face product placement and product pushing. All we can say is, ‘sahi hai’!
Mona Singh plays the part of the mother with admirable dexterity. She looks, talks and behaves like the typical nineties mother – superb casting, if we must say it again. Ahan Nirban, as Dabbu, and Ruhi Khan, as Chithi, have done wonderful jobs too. Harshu’s attempts at impressing Vidya are hilarious, to say the least. A humorous analogy of the moon, earth and asteroids, used to dissect his attraction towards her, is really funny. The conventionally patriotic number, Mile Sur Mere Tumhara, is cleverly deployed to convey Harshu’s feelings for Vidya- a touch of directorial brilliance!
The show sparkles with intelligent humour and clever one-liners, underlining the nimble direction and deft writing. The music and song compositions are remarkable, both in quality and in their ability to add a touch of whimsy and magic to the goings-on. Vaibhav Bundhoo lends dynamism to the show, with his beautiful compositions. The title track, Dhaga and the Udit Narayan-sung Aisi Hai Hawa, stand out among these.
The true hallmark of a well-made emotional roller-coaster of a show is its ability to make you cry. Yeh Meri Family not only makes us cry, it makes us sob. The last scene had us sobbing out loud, and there’s no shame in admitting that we enjoyed the cry thoroughly. As the tear-jerking emotions of parting did a magical tango on screen with the sublime composition, Dhaga, we bawled our hearts out like babies. And after the series was over, we sported a silly grin on our face for the rest of the day, as we reminisced on its memorable moments in our mind’s eye. Yeh Meri Family has that elusive quality of staying ensconced in your conscience, long after you’ve finished watching it.
Yeh Meri Family is that glittering jewel that lights up one’s inner being with an unadulterated joy and enchantment that is all too real and pure. It is the kind of story you sink into like the softness of eiderdown. It makes you laugh, it makes you cry, it makes you feel all the feels– even the ones you didn’t know you had within you. It sneaks up on you, when you least expect it to, slipping in under your radar and catching you unawares. It lunges at the cockles of our hearts, catching hold of them and refusing to let go. It’s at once funny and charming, unreservedly relatable and utterly capable of summoning long-lost memories that lurk in unknown crevices within our brains.
Watch Yeh Meri Family for all of this and more. It’s one show you definitely wouldn’t want to miss out on. Take our word for it.
We, at IWMBuzz, rate Yeh Meri Family, 4.5/5.
(Written by Rashmi Paharia)