Film: The Great Indian Family
Director: Vijay Krishna Acharya
Cast: Vicky Kaushal, Manushi Chhillar, Manoj Pahwa, Kumud Mishra, Yashpal Sharma and Sadiya Siddiqui
Pretty fond of the game of snakes and ladders, Bhajan Kumar considers his family to be the ‘snakes’, always aiming at his downfall. But as there is a knock from the past, his views are due to be challenged.
Vijay Krishna Acharya, who has written and directed ‘Tashan’, ‘Dhoom: 3’ and ‘Thugs of Hindostan’, writes and directs this family drama that is supposed to be a clarion call for ‘Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Isai, Aapas Mein Hain Bhai Bhai’. While we respect the sentiment, and agree that we could sure use it at this time and hour, the film fails to deliver the message effectively or entertainingly.
At 112 minutes, ‘The Great Indian Family’ charts the life of the ‘aan baan shaan’ of Balrampur — Bhajan Kumar (Vicky Kaushal), the famous bhajan singer, the ‘supoot’ of the Tripathi family. As his father, a renowned priest of the town (Kumud Mishra), goes for his annual Char Dham Yatra, a crisis befalls the family. Bhajan’s identity is questioned and the whole of Balrampur becomes a hub of rumours.
With both Chacha Balak Ram Tripathi (played by Manoj Pahwa) and Bhateeja Bhajan unable to resolve the crisis, it falls upon Tripathi Senior to bring the situation under control as soon as he lands in town.
The film begins on a typical Bollywood masala note: three songs in the very first hour, introduction to the elaborate exaggerated family, colourful costumes, songs, dance and shadyantras (conspiracy). The screenplay is ineffective, the characterisation poor, and one hangs between loving the hero and being confused about him, considering his irrational behaviour.
Bits of the plot are engaging — there’s Abdul and his family and how they stand behind Bhajan in his tough times. Then there’s gundi Jasmeet from Jalandhar (Manushi Chhillar), and Bhajan’s twin sister Gunja (Srishti Dixit) and her unshaken faith in her brother. One sees the effort put in the dialogues and to introduce humour, but the gaps are glaring.
It’s only towards the end when skeletons tumble out of the closet that the film gains some gravitas, but by then, it’s already a lost case.
Poor writing renders strong actors ineffectual and there is a whole lot of them — Manoj Pahwa, Kumud Mishra, Yashpal Sharma and Sadiya Siddiqui. If only as much thought had gone into building characters as dressing them up! Costume designer Sheetal Sharma deserves credit though.
One has loved Vicky Kaushal as Major Vihaan Singh Shergill (‘Uri’) and Iqbal Syed (‘Raazi’), and he even begins to enjoy being Bhajan Kumar with his swag, but alas, that doesn’t last long. No fault of his though, it’s the unconvincing script that brings him down.
Manushi Chhillar makes a dashing entry but barely gets any screen space other than a dance number and a kiss that was totally avoidable. Music by Pritam with the exception of ‘Kanhaiya Twitter Pe Aaja’ is forgettable.
Hindu-Muslim bonhomie with a Sikh woman and a Parsi doctor thrown in the mix, along with a certain Daniel (Christian touch), can make for a relatable story, but it has to come together to say something in an engaging and entertaining way.
It’s brave of Vijay Acharya to try to say something that is right and relevant through a film, but better luck next time!