Thursday, March 23, 2023

Entertainment Review: Happy Family: Conditions Apply

There is something about large, loud Gujarati clans that lends itself to comedy, and the laughs are mined from stereotyping the community.  They have certain typical — and endearing — traits though, and their strong family bonds, that can be as supportive as they are stifling. Then, there’s their documented love for food and festivity.
Happy Family: Conditions Apply, created and directed by Aatish Kapadia and JD Majethia of the TV sitcom Khichdi, is more of the same, only fancier looking, since it’s for OTT.  
Ratna Pathak Shah plays Hemlata the chirpy matriarch (is there any other kind) of the Dholakia clan that comprises her husband Mansukhlal (Raj Babbar), daughter Ayushi (Sanah Kapur), eccentric son Ramesh (Atul Kulkarni), his selfie-obsessed wife Pallavi (Ayesha Jhulka), their son Sanjay (Raunaq Kamdar), his wife Tisca (Meenal Sahu) and young son; another daughter Falgini (Pranoti Pradhan) lives elsewhere with her husband (Paresh Kamdar), and a son Suresh (Atul Kumar) lives in the US.
Four generations of the Dholakias live in a posh Bandra apartment, with no more friction than a constant stream of taunts from Hemlata aimed at the passive Pallavi and her non-Gujarati daughter-in-law, who is a designer (and constantly mocked as “par kati” or Chandni Chowk to Elco Market). 
When the series begins, Hemlata wakes up the entire household because she hears the hooting of an owl. Their first real crisis comes when Sanjay and Tisca’s secret is revealed– they have purchased an apartment elsewhere and plan to move there. Nobody is as crushed by the news as Ramesh, who takes it as a personal betrayal.
Then, Suresh marries a Black woman in the US, and Hemlata, who wanted him to marry a “gori Gujaratan” is annoyed and uses racist slurs against her.  It is awful that in this day and age of political correctness, this narrow-mindedness is used to get a few laughs.
Ramesh runs the family’s business of medical stores, and has the irritating habit of offering medical advice to strangers; Sanjay supposedly works for an ad agency, otherwise, the Dholakia clan seems to be on perpetual holiday. When they are together, the default mode of communication is bickering.
Ratna Pathak Shah gets the sharpest lines, funniest gags and the grandest wardrobe; she is the one who keeps the series afloat, maybe because her Gujarati genes allow her to get the accent and linguistic peculiarities right, and also because she has a tremendous flair for comedy. The other lead actors like Raj Babbar and Atul Kulkarni would have trouble convincing anyone that they are Gujaratis.
The series is mildly amusing, coasting along on the generally sunny disposition of the characters and their small misadventures. It’s just that Majethia and Kapadia are stuck in Khichdi mode, and since then better family dramas (Gullak, for instance) have come out and gained appreciation and popularity.
Happy Family: Conditions Apply
Directed by: Aatish Kapadia- JD Majethia
Cast: Raj Babbar, Ratha Pathak Shah, Atul Kulkarni, Ayesha Jhulka and others
On Amazon Prime
Deepa Gahlot
Deepa Gahlot is one of India’s seniormost and best-known entertainment journalists. A National Award-winning fim critic and author of several books on film and theatre. She tweets at @deepagahlot

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