The Great Indian Family
There was hope that moving away from the grandeur and immense ambition, writer-director Vijay Krishna Acharya would probably be a lot better in his attempt at a small-town story with a social message. But alas! The hope isn't fulfilled to its full potential in any manner. The Great Indian Family has Vicky Kaushal continuing his streak of starring in 'fun films' (after Govinda Naam Mera and Zara Hatke Zara Bachke), but this time, he has a new setting and issue to deal with.
Having had the chance to see the film, here's me telling you the good and not-so-good aspects of the film, which might help you decide whether to watch it or not-ALSO READ: Vicky Kaushal on 'The Great Indian Family' - "It shows how situations can test that bond fiercely"
The Small Town Flavor & Humor
Even in the most underwhelming films that had a small-town setting in recent times, more often than not - the flavor of that fictional/non-fictional town is retained well enough to make the world believable. And that stays true with TGIF as well. The first 40-odd minutes of the film is unsurprisingly the best bits as it involves humor, fun, references, and so on, making it genuinely entertaining. Kaushal riding on a scooter with his two friends as Dhoom 3 background score plays, him mouthing 'surgical strike' as he enters an area inhabited by Muslims, the constant metaphor of snakes and ladders are extremely funny, thus making you believe that the film is headed in the right direction.
The Main Issue & The Treatment
In fact, even when the said issue pops up, the initial treatment is done with sensitivity yet being blunt about the characters' regressive approach. There is hope and optimism as the film arrives at the interval.
But being another case of two halves, the film nosedives poorly in the second half, where the situations and the character development keep getting more and more ridiculous with every scene. There is a constant 'sorry, what?' attached to your face as the screenplay tries to have its choices justified but, in fact, only gets worse.
Characterisation & Missing the Point
Then comes the characterisation, and it is as preposterous as so many other things. Apart from leading man Vicky Kaushal and the male patriarch, Kumud Mishra - almost no one gets any decent development or arc in any manner. A veteran like Manoj Pahwa is also reduced to just a few stereotypical lines and a predictable moment of redemption. The female characters have the most laughable yer pitiful things to play with, but we will get to that later.
However, the one thing that the film was riding on and what should have been the USP is such a lost cause towards the end. It almost feels like even the makers didn't quite understand what they wanted to convey. It is misguided, misdirected, perplexing and unconvincing. Is it a family drama or is it a societal issue or is it a mixed bag, or none of the above? It remains a question. I could only remember that one meme from the film 3 idiots - 'arre bhai, aakhir kehna kya chahte ho?'
A Manual on 'How To Not Write Female Characters' Again!
I don't quite know the reason, but somehow, director Vijay Krishna Acharya has not cracked the formula or just ends up writing the most insignificant female characters (excluding Tashan, to an extent). I am not talking about the objectification or gender stereotypes as such but just the characterisation of females in general. Manushi Chhillar's presence in the film is as good as nothing. In spite of some effort from the actor to do something with what wafer-thin role she is provided with, you could have replaced her with an AI bot, and it would still made the same impact. Almost nil chemistry with Kaushal, no backstory, no rhyme or reason for her actions and choices - Chhillar's role is one of the worst written ones in recent times.
And it isn't just her - you rope in the likes of veterans like Sadia Siddiqui and Alka Amin (the latter's performance in Dum Laga Ke Haisha being the perfect example) and a young gun line Srishti Dixit - and give them no presence, no arc and literally inconsequential dialogues. Even if you remove Dhoom 3 and Thugs of Hindostan from the equation owing to the setting and ambition (which is also ridiculous to do, but hypothetically), a small setting like this should have been the perfect opportunity to actually write a/several powerful female roles - but is an entirely lost opportunity.
In spite of an always reliable Vicky Kaushal, a fantastic Kumud Mishra, good humor and a message with potential, there is nothing 'great' about this family in general. It might have an appeal that catapults the film and its shelf-life but would have to rely heavily on immensely positive word-of-mouth.
Rating - **1/2 (2.5/5)