Ratna Pathak Shah reigns in “Happy Family: Conditions Apply” which revolves around four generations of the Gujarati Dholakia family.
“From the makers of Khichdi and Sarabhai vs. Sarabhai”- need we tell you anything more to make you watch Happy Family: Conditions Apply? It might not be as legendary as the former ones, but it is a wholesome fusion of an Indian family and its typical chaos. A Prime Video original, it revolves around the Gujarati Dholakia family that finds heartwarming solutions to the typical Indian family problems in their hilarious ways.
Dholakia family consists of four generations. The oldest is the simple and respectable Mansukhlal (Raj Babbar). His wife Hemlata (Ratna Pathak Shah) is an absolute firecracker. She is bold, sassy, talkative, and can always be heard cussing “gadhedi na” (stupid). In the first episode, we see her reciting a sexy poem for Mansukhlal in front of the family. Their younger son Suresh (Atul Kumar) is based in the USA whereas the older son Ramesh (Atul Kulkarni), a pharmacist, is obsessed with medicines and naively says double-meaning things that make him the butt of all jokes. His wife Pallavi (Ayesha Jhulka) is a devoted housewife and a doting daughter-in-law and mother-in-law. Ramesh and Pallavi’s son Sanjay, or rather, Sanjuoy (Raunaq Kamdar) runs an advertisement agency while his wife Tisca (Meenal Sahu) is a modern fashion designer who is always correcting everyone’s English vocabulary. Sanjuoy’s sister Ayushi (Sanah Kapur) is a theatre artist and generally the only one with common sense in the Dholakia family. Add to this mix, the elite “photo dikha” couple i.e. Mansukhlal and Hemlata’s daughter Falguni (Pranoti Pradhan) and her husband Dr. Jatin Kumar (Paresh Ganatra) who will constantly remind you of the legends Praful and Hansa.
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All these characters are hilarious thanks to their idiosyncracies, humorous dialogues, and amazing cast. Ratna Pathak Shah, without a doubt, steals the show with her boldness and impeccable comic timing. Babbar and Kulkarni seem a bit uncomfortable but give their best regardless. I especially liked Kapur’s straightforward demeanor. Ganatra and Pradhan’s characters seem irritating, but their acting makes them the funniest supporting characters in the show. Shockingly, Jhulka, who has previously done good work, has given a very lukewarm performance. Sahu and Kamdar, too, were disappointing while playing major characters.
All the actors, along with the directors Jamnadas Majethia and Aatish Kapadia, have made a very satisfying show that will remind you of your family. However, it is a mixed bag. It begins very chaotically. It runs from one scene to the other with a very haphazard narrative. The characters also seem underdeveloped for the longest time. For the first few episodes, the show isn’t as funny and repeatedly stretches comical scenes to the point where they don’t look funny anymore. Meanwhile, every problem gets resolved rather quickly. Also, I wish the makers had left a few gentle scenes be gentle instead of forcing humor there. However, after episode five, it picks up the pace and makes you laugh endlessly. It happily makes you believe in all its absurd events and keeps you hooked successfully. There is no doubt that Shah is the queen who runs the show making us laugh out loud. The climax, no matter how illogical, is hysterical throughout.
Happy Family is thoroughly an Indian show; its strength and vices are both typically Indian. After all what gets more Indian than one enquiring about another’s partner asking, “Ladka hai ya ladki hai?” and the conservative grandmother replying, “Pehle ye puch Gujarati toh hai na?” The show is progressive representing topics like gender equality, racism, and homosexuality. It has a grandmother who drinks, flirts, and cusses all the time, and a grandfather who easily accepts that his granddaughter has a friend with benefits. The family members have their individual identities and choices instead of only being viewed in relation to each other. Yet the show is riddled with stereotypes, especially about the South Indian domestic worker Kanakavalli (Swati Das). Be it her accent or putting coconut even in kheer, everything about Kanakavalli is stereotypical. The show also conveniently forgets that domestic workers deserve decent pay. The conservative attitude shows every time Hemlata is shown as immature in comparison to Mansukhlal who shouts at her at times. It also gets problematic when Hemlata objectifies men in a fashion show. Sure, her character is bold and foul-mouthed, but passing problematic things as humorous is not necessary, is it?
Despite its flaws, Happy Family stays true to its Indianness when it says, “Conditions Apply”. Aren’t Indian families mixed bags too? There are terms, conditions, troubles, and chaos, but in the end, we make it through. We are all stupid at times without realizing it and require our loved ones to help us make sense of life. Families (not the abusive ones) are annoying at times, yet they make us feel the safest. As the Gujarati saying goes, “Traas chhe, pan khaas chhe.” It is in portraying this essence of Indian families that Happy Family wins.
Happy Family: Conditions Apply is streaming on Amazon Prime Video.