Happy Family—Conditions Reply is worth a watch only for first four episodes!

Ratna Pathak Shah and Sanah Kapur in Happy Family—Conditions Apply. Photo: Trailer Video Grab 

When we watched Hats Off Productions’ earlier outings, especially Khichdi and Sarabhai Vs. Sarabhai, we doffed our hats off (sorry, could not resist that!) to the team of Aatish Kapadia and J.D. Majethia, for their high level of humor and their staunch refusal (as admitted by JD to me) to churn out extensions of their brilliant shows just for the moolah.

Their deep understanding of Gujarati, Marathi and other Indian cultures and the snobbish sections of society were add-on highs alongside the exalted level of wit that was there in their work, and when things turned emotional, the tight rein on characters also was immensely praiseworthy. As exercises in sheer fun, Khichdi (even the movie they made from it) and Sarabhai Vs Sarabhai remain benchmarks on Indian television that are of global standards in culture-based comedy.

However, when the JD-AK team ventured into a web series version of Sarabhai…, we saw the first hint of a slip—probably taking advantage of the lack of censorship on OTT, it made that series far less humorous in the name of ‘trendy’ appeal. But, as the show still worked on the whole, I took it as a passing aberration.

And indeed, so I thought as I watched the first four episodes of this new show on Amazon Prime Video, and wondered why the platform did not hype it like many other shows that were far from great. The characters and the dialogues of Happy Family—Conditions Apply along with the plot developments were nothing short of genius in writing and direction. Yay! Thought I: the combo is in form again! The first 4 episodes were fab, and that’s an understatement.

It was a long time since I watched so many interesting characters with even more graphically amusing traits: the matriarch of the dysfunctional family was the nitpicking yet vulnerable Hemlata Dholakia (Ratna Pathak Shah) with her penchant for committing suicide and looking down on her modern daughter-in-law and addressing her by the latter’s attire and hairstyle, while her mature and very shrewdly understanding of human nature husband was the placid Mansukhlal (Raj Babbar), whose observations obliterated the generation cap in a family living together for four generations.

The younger lot were equally interesting: the hardcore pharmacy owner obsessed with medicines and with an unfailing propensity to put his foot into his mouth: son Ramesh (Atul Kulkarni), his son, Sanjuoy (to be pronounced that way for luck!) who wants to move out to start living his own life with his sweet wife, Tisca (Raunaq Kamdar and Meenal Sahu), the whacky cardiac surgeon, Dr Jatin (Paresh Ganatra), the mercurial maid (Swati Das), the airhead busineswoman, Diana (Neha Jhulka) who is “Awww!”-ful (that is full of repeatedly expressing “Awww!” in a cute fashion!) and also the son who lives in Las Vegas, Suresh (Atul Kumar), who marries a sexy black, Kwamboka (Margaret Wanjiku Kariuki) and so on.

The situations that arise from their interplay, personal beliefs and dogmas are so hilarious that expectations soar taller than the Burj Khalifa.

And then came the crash! And what a crash it was!

Totally losing the plot in the name of “whatchamacallit” (as Suresh) says twice, we find a LGBTQIA angle actually thrust in yet again when not needed in a web series (Et tu, Hats Off?), as Sanjuoy discovers he loves a man even as his wife is pregnant with twins, a heart attack is brought in as a passing thing, and even terrorists storm a mall and the maid manages to escape from one part of the shopping area and reach the rest of the family, who have organized a party there and are now seeking refuge under the stage. There are even more silly scenes, all terribly written, and sequences wherein we see the plot totally abandon grip, sense and logic. Of course, the skeletons in everyone’s closet must come out, and upheavals happen due to all those, when they are all expecting incipient death at the hands of terrorists! Phew!

The performances all stand out despite the hackneyed plot as the artistes are all extraordinary performers even with the sub-ordinary material from episodes 5 to 10. Among them, Atul Kulkarni towers as the pharmacist, and I loved Meenal Sahu as Tisca and Atul Kumar as Suresh in particular. Among the rest, Swati Das as the maidservant and Pratish Vora as the cop are outstanding.

Wish the series was even a quarter of the performance level and that of JD-AK’s past work. The proverb goes ‘All’s well that ends well’ and here, things plunge into a vertiginous spin into nowhere from Episode 5, and only get worse. I am still reeling udner the shock of JD-AK delivering such painfully poor material.

Rating: *1/2

Amazon Prime Video presents Hats Off Productions’ Happy Family—Conditions Apply Created by: Jamnadas Majethia Produced and directed by: Jamnadas Majethia & Aatish Kapadia Written by: Vibhawari Deshpande,  Khushali Jariwala, Aatish Kapadia,  Jamnadas Majethia & Kesar Majethia Music: Hiral Viradia Starring: Raj Babbar, Ratna Pathak Shah, Atul Kulkarni, Ayesha Jhulka, Raunaq Kamdar, Meenal Sahu, Sanah Kapur, Atul Kumar, Paresh Ganatra, Pranoti Pradhan, Margaret Wanjiku Kariuki, Swati Das, Neha Jhulka, Waqar Khan, Mahabanoo Mody-Kotwal, Vinayak Ketkar, Samar Vermani, Pratish Vora, Adish Vaidya & others




Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here