The online audience is in a happy place, what with prominent OTT players going all out to woo them with a veritable smorgasbord of delectable content offerings. Variety, as they say, is the spice of life, and we, the viewers, are definitely guilty of greed and gluttony, even as digital content creators do everything to further stoke our insatiable appetites for great content.
But, if truth be told, in the frantic race to deliver original and diverse content to viewers, one player has undoubtedly pipped the others to the post. Ladies and gentlemen, it is ZEE5 that we talk about. This relatively new digital entertainment player has stolen a march over rival players, with its impressively varied repertoire of originals.
From the enchanted to the electrifying, from the slice-of-life to real life, ZEE5 has traversed all the genres, in its short, three-month existence. Its latest web series, Babbar Ka Tabbar, is again a markedly different proposition from the usual, humdrum stuff.
Babbar Ka Tabbar is a comical take on the travails of middle-class parents, as they attempt to navigate the notorious chasm– the much-vilified generation gap with their teenaged kids. It also takes a peek into the minds of the kids, as the teens are stupefied about what on earth has taken over their otherwise sensible parents.
Read on, as we separate the banal from the brilliant in Babbar Ka Tabbar-The times, they are a-changing; faster than you can say ‘change’. What’s in one minute is out the next. Today’s kids are hurtling into the future at scorching speeds, leaving the poor, dumbfounded parents to play catch-up. Mr and Mrs Babbar are one such set of parents, floundering in the sea of contemporary technology and, ahem, terminology. The Babbars’ have two college-going kids- Nikki and Kittu. Mr Babbar, played to perfection by Manu Rishi Chadha, is absolutely clueless about the new generation’s ways and whatabouts; Mrs Babbar, even more so. But while Mrs Babbar, portrayed by Ayesha Raza Mishra, takes it in her stride, Mr Babbar is keen to straddle both worlds-his own, and the one populated by his kids.
For this, Babbar takes recourse to the considerable knowledge possessed by Jamia, his young tenant, who rents a tiny room on the terrace of his home. For Mrs Babbar, Jamia is persona non grata. She considers him a good-for-nothing lout, doesn’t offer him a morsel of the yummy food she whips up, but yet, sends him out on sundry errands all day long. But for Mr Babbar, Jamia is an all-weather friend, his go-to source, whenever he needs educating on the whims and fancies of the young generation. Whether he’s worried about the sexual orientation of his floppy-haired son Kittu, who he suspects is gay, or about the affair that his daughter Nikki is supposedly having with her college-mate Ranjit, it is always Jamia that Mr Babbar turns to, for guidance. After all, Jamia belongs to gen-next, and being his tenant, is obliged to help him out whenever he needs help.
The result is comic capers, outrageous antics and hilarious sequences, as Babbar tries his best to get privy to the goings-on in his kids’ lives. He sends Ranjit a friend request on Facebook, much to Nikki’s consternation, which Ranjit gleefully accepts. Nikki, meanwhile, rejects her Dad’s friend request. Babbar’s attempts to keep up with the kids are hysterical, to say the least. In one scene he describes Mrs Babbar as ‘irritated AF’. Nikki, doing a double-take, asks him whether he knows what AF stands for. He gives an epic answer to that- we aren’t saying what it is. Watch it for yourself to find out.
Mango People Media, helmed by Neha Anand and Victor Mukherjee is the production house behind the engaging series, while Victor Mukherjee and Alok Sharma hold the director’s reins. The show is a telling reflection of modern times, when Facebook has been taken over by a motley crew of mommy-daddies, chacha-chachis and even dada-dadi and nana-nanis. The younger generation, while polite enough to accept the friend requests of assorted relatives, has quietly migrated to Instagram and Snapchat, two social media platforms unsullied until now, by the marauding mob of relatives. Phew! Thank God for small mercies.
Anshuman Jha, he, of Love, Sex and Dhoka fame, makes his digital debut, essaying the role of Jamia. While he’s really good in the role-play, if only he could drum up some more expressions on his face, the character would have transcended to another level altogether. We found his expressions a tad bit bland, to be honest.
Bhavin Bhanushali plays Kittu. Floppy-haired and feather-brained Kittu is a sweet and simple guy, going where the tide takes him. Bhanushali’s enactment of Kittu is superb. We really loved him in the role.
Avneet Kaur plays Nikki, and is about average, nothing to write home about. Ayesha Raza Mishra has positively perfected the art of playing the Punjabi mother, and she does it darned well too. She’s simply flawless in the role of harried mother to a couple of teens. But the star of the show is undoubtedly Manu Rishi Chadha. He is spectacular in his portrayal of the trying-hard-to-fit-in father, and lends stunning credence to the proceedings. He holds the show together on the back of outstanding acting skills and honest rendering of his character. Babbar Ka Tabbar is definitely his show all along.
One major grouse we have with the series is its assumption that if a man is effeminate, he’s definitely gay. Nope, not done at all, guys. And in today’s time, with its air of political correctness, it is nothing short of sacrilege. Scores of icons, who are epitomes of manliness, have come out in recent years- Ricky Martin, Neil Patrick Harris, George Michael, Zachary Quinto, and many more, each manlier than the next, are all gay. To co-relate effeminacy with gayness is like putting the cart before the horse- a glaring anomaly in the understanding of this solemn issue.
The series ends on a cliff-hanger. Nikki is onto something with Rahul, another classmate of hers. She constantly sneaks out in the middle of the night with this Rahul, he hands her wads of 2000 Rs bills as payment for an as-yet-unknown job completed and other, equally mystery-laden stuff goes on between Rahul and Nikki. The first season ended at six episodes, leaving us on tenterhooks about this curiously shadowy affair. Remember, curiosity killed the cat, while patience is the greatest virtue out there. So all we can do is to wait patiently for Season 2 to make its appearance, to discover what it is all about.
As an aside, if you’re wondering what exactly Tabbar means, allow us to enlighten you. Tabbar is Punjabi for family or clan. We too had to look up its meaning, coz, being part of the millennial gang, we are shamefully clueless about these typically colloquial terms. But then, it goes with the territory, doesn’t it?
In the meanwhile, we, at IWMBuzz, would rate Babbar Ka Tabbar 3/5.
(Written by Rashmi Paharia)