In its latest drama, Home, AltBalaji revisits the 2013 Campa Cola Compound row, when bulldozers had landed at the gates of an elite Worli housing society to demolish parts of it that had been built illegally.
The residents’ protracted legal battle to save their homes captured the media’s attention. Here was a rare example when upper-middle-class India was exposed to the threat of homelessness that haunts thousands of citizens in slums, shanties and other unauthorised constructions daily.
Home transports that premise to the fictional Kalakruti Society in Mumbai and offers a fictionalised version of those times through the experience of one family, the Sethis. Directed by Habib Faisal and boasting of an ensemble cast that includes veterans Parikshit Sahni, Annu Kapoor, Supriya Pilgaonkar and Himani Shivpuri alongside younger talent such as Amol Parashar and Chetna Pandey, Home was released on the video-on-demand platform over August and September.
The Sethi family is at the centre of the drama for more reasons than one. It is their patriarch (Parikshit Sahni) who unwittingly invites the axe on his neighbours after moving court to complain about the water supply in the society. Tragedy is compounded for the Sethis when personal setbacks juggle for attention with the disaster looming over their neighbourhood, resulting in a host of difficulties.
Home chronicles these poignant times through the perspective of the family’s youngest son, Vansh (Amol Parashar). This creates an interesting coming-of-age dynamic – at times, he reacts as many 20-year-olds would, descending into a litany of complaints about terrible his life is, while at others, he expands his worldview to make room for the sufferings of others.
The show opens with a visual that will be familiar to many Mumbai residents who had followed the news when the Campa Cola row was at its peak – a sea of residents forming a human chain to oppose bulldozers, civic officials and police officers trying to make their way into the society to begin the demolition.
This is a story that could happen only in Mumbai, where real estate is so unaffordable that home ownership is out of reach for most. The series aptly captures the spectrum of affluence that resides in a housing society – there are those for whom buying or renting a second residence requires some shuffling around of finances, while the majority are yet to pay off their debt incurred from the home they now stand to lose.
It is in the latter category that the Sethi family is located. There is the father, Himansh (Annu Kapoor), whose travel company went bust a few years ago, forcing him to work at a mediocre pay for a man half his age. To support the family, mother Vandana (Pilgaonkar) stars a tiffin service. Their son, meanwhile, is set on going to America for further studies, for which, despite a scholarship, his parents will have to tap into their savings.
Just as news of the demolition comes, their daughter moves back home after a row with her alcoholic husband, and Vandana notices a suspicious swelling on her breast, leading to a health emergency. To top it off, there are legal fees to be paid for the society to make its case before the courts, on which front too the residents seem unable to catch a break.
While its sympathy is squarely with the residents, Home manages to capture several aspects of the debate that raged around the time of the Campa Cola row, prime among them being why the owners bought illegally built property to begin with. Questions of privilege versus complicity divided opinion on the row. This is reflected in one scene in Home in which the residents, preparing to meet the local legislator and seek his support, are advised to dress down so that they can evoke sympathy.
The show has some strong performances – Pilgaonkar, especially, is in top form – and some heartwarming moments, most of them stemming from the Sethi family dynamic. But after a strong opening, the pace stars to lag. The compounding woes of the Sethi become tiresome after a point and the court case seems to be a distraction. Some romantic angles that go nowhere are thrown into the mix.
Though Home is among the better offerings of Balaji Telefilms, the demolition-themed web series could have done with some trimming of its own.
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