It’s all about fighting with your family in AltBalaji’s latest drama. The Great Indian Dysfunctional Family introduces us to the always-bickering Ranawats, whose cosy bungalow in the picturesque town of Kanoori houses secrets, lies and animosity.
There’s the acerbic and foul-tempered Vikram (Kay Kay Menon) and his rebellious teenage daughter Aditi (Sanaya Pithawala). Sandwiched between the two hot-heads are Vikram’s hapless wife Geeta (Shriswara), his stoner mother Premlata (Swaroop Sampat) and his speech-impaired younger son Mridul (Prithviraj).
The Ranawats live in an uneasy calm until Vikram’s brother, Samar (Barun Sobti), who ran away from home eight years ago, returns to Kanoori, bringing his outspoken wife Sonali (Eisha Chopra) along. Over a few fraught weeks, skeletons and people come out of the closet, hostilities erupt and tears and blood are shed. Directed by Rajlaxmi Ratan Seth, The Great Indian Dysfunctional Family is available on the AltBalaji website and app.
The main dysfunction in this family comes from the relationship between the two brothers. Vikram and Samar, who were once like peas in a pod, cannot spend a moment in each other’s company any more without having it out. Vikram has been nursing a wound against his brother ever since Samar unceremoniously left home. He loses no opportunity to resort to sarcasm, jibes and other unpleasantness, his every other sentence a thinly disguised taunt.
The contrast in their professional ambitions is to be another sticking point. In a family of Army men, Samar is the only Ranawat who was not enthused by military life, leading him to quit the force and start a restaurant in Mumbai. Vikram, on the other hand, is a military man to boot. Once a decorated officer, an injury compels him to come out of active service, fuelling his descent into resentment and gloom.
Another source of tension is his daughter, Aditi, who has spent recent weeks behaving erratically because her best friend, Nandita, is getting married. Samar’s wife, Sonali, who believes in speaking her mind and getting the reticent Ranawats to open up, also ends up inviting Vikram’s ire. The rest of the characters seem to be, for the most part, caught in the resulting turmoil, looking for cover when the sparks fly.
Of these, Swaroop’s Premlata stays the most unfazed through all the drama. The genial matriarch of the family takes the concept of “high tea” a little too literally, spending her afternoons sipping her marijuana-infused beverage. While this makes her one of the more likeable characters on the show, it also keeps her on the sidelines of the action.
The show is frequently engaging, especially when it has a firm grip on the storyline, but loses its footing often. The turn of events sometimes defies logic. Perhaps more disconcerting are the tonal changes between melodrama and subtle humour. The shifts in mood are too sudden, coming across as an inconsistency in the reactions of the characters.
Not all performances are up to the mark. Kay Kay Menon and Shriswara fit right into their roles, and Barun Sobti doesn’t need to work too hard to impress the considerable fan following he has enjoyed since his television days. But Swaroop does not have much to do. Eisha Chopra and Sanaya Pithawala get a lot of dramatic moments, but don’t have the acting experience to carry them off.
Despite its modern veneer, The Great Indian Dysfunctional Family has all the trappings of an old-school Balaji soap opera – heightened emotions, bizarre plot twists and lots of drama. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. After all, there’s a reason why Balaji shows have ruled television rating points for decades. Instead, the show is let down by its choppy editing, uneven narrative and inconsistent characterisation. However, at 10 short episodes, The Great Indian Dysfunctional Family is easy enough to breeze through.