The Great Indian Family: Indian, yes, but not great at all!

Vicky Kaushal plays a Hindu priest who is suddenly revealed as a Muslim in The Great Indian Family. Photo: Trailer Video Grab 

Since when did in-your-face national integration become ‘today’? ‘Intellectuals’ who protest the often-justified jingoism in recent patriotic movies do not seem to mind effete ‘united India’ mov(i)es like these. More important, it is high time that the YRF tradition of having unattractive, even if relevant, titles is broken, for such nomenclature destroys whatever little appeal such movies might have otherwise had with the audience.

The Great Indian Family, which was ready years ago (Vicky Kaushal revealed that he had shot for it just after Sardar Udham, which released in 2020), is a project dug out practically from the Yash Raj Films archives! It is a perfect example of innumerable movies in the last decade that should not have been green-lit at all, not even for OTT viewing, including a few from the YRF banner, unless they were scripted with precise (and concise!) dedication!. For even at less than two hours, the film still looks interminably long.

We have a good Hindu pandit’s family, a scheming (read mercenary) Hindu pandit and son, an allegedly Muslim child of the first-mentioned family, a Parsi (or Irani, as mentioned by someone!) doctor, a Sikh girlfriend and a Muslim who keeps his Hanuman gada (mace, the weapon) in his home as he plays Hanuman in the local Ram Leela. There is also a Christian around. Get it? That’s the great Indian family, in-your-face-almost-thrust-into-your-nose-writer-director-Vijay Krishna Acharya- style!

It would have been better if VKA had stuck to writing his slick crime capers (the Dhoom franchise), though there as well, he had gone catastrophically wrong also directing Thugs of Hindostan—note the name of the country in that title!

And so we have, in the town of Balrampur in Uttar Pradesh (largely represented here by sets and aerial shots), a ‘famous’ young singer of devotional songs named, aptly perhaps, Bhajan Kumar (Vicky Kaushal)—real name Ved Vyas (Mahabharat, anyone?). He hails from a traditional Hindu family of priests, headed by Pandit Siya Ram Tripathi (Kumud Mishra).

His family (of six members, plus a housemaid) upholds the tradition of ‘democracy’—that is, taking important decisions through a ballot. The business rival here is Pandit Mishra (Yashpal Sharma). Both are in the running for the prestigious wedding of a local moneybags Malpani (Paritosh Sand)’s daughter Aishwarya (Saloni Khanna).

Meanwhile, Ved’s bum-chums are Bhaata (Bhuvan Arora) and Sarveshwar (Ashutosh Ujjwal). But the trio split when Ved falls for Jasmeet (Manushi Chhillar) who Sarveshwar has liked. Red herrings are strewn here for no reason—we are led to think that the child Aishwarya will become the child Ved’s love later, but she doesn’t. We are led to think that Sarveshwar and the Mishra collude on sending a fake communiqué to the Tripathis that their son, Ved, is actually a Muslim, but that’s not true either.

And yes, that’s the pivot of the story—the family is shattered when they come to know that Ved is a Muslim (Pandit Siya Ram is then away on his annual religious pilgrimage and his phone is off). At this crucial stage, good Muslim friends like Abdul (Hittesh Arrora) and his family come to Ved’s aid. Of course, the Malpanis would not want Ved to be a part of their wedding rituals. And what happens after Pandit Siya Ram returns? And is Ved really a Muslim? Only a DNA test can decide if he is really Pandit Siya Ram’s son.

Within all this lay a decent storyline, but the execution sucks—big-time. What could have been a touching story on religious integration is spoilt by too many gimmicky additions that actually sap the intensity quotient of the film to near-zero. Any comparisons to YRF founder Yash Chopra’s brilliant similar Hindu-Muslim directorial, Dharamputra (1960), will be nothing less than sacrilege. Thankfully here, we are spared a forced recreation of that classic Sahir anthem from Chopra’s debut film, Dhool Ka Phool, Tu Hindu banega na Mussalman banega / Insaan ki aulad hai insaan banega!

Speaking of the music, the highlights are Amitabh Bhattacharya’s lyrics in Ki farak painda hai, Pukaroon Hari Om and Kanhaiya Twitter pe aaja, while Pritam’s music works only in Kanhaiya and Ki farak painda hai. The song Sahiba is forced in as a Punjabi compulsion, justified by the Sikh heroine, perhaps, and seems to be created with that calculated intention. Kingshuk Chakraborty’s background music is alright, though too loud on occasion.

Technically average, the film has two brilliant performances—by Vicky Kaushal and Kumud Mishra as son and father. Vicky puts his very life into Ved, especially in the dramatic sequences in which he genuinely seems traumatized. In the lighter parts, he is effortless, and his song enactment is smooth. Kumud Mishra’s eyes do a lot of his acting here, and he is superb in his relatively complex role. The supporting cast is good, especially Srishti Dixit as Ved’s twin sister and the actress who plays Abdul’s mother. But Manushi Chhillar is by leagues YRF’s worst discovery, with even the long-forgotten Naseem (Kabhi Kabhie) being better than her.

However, as a film, The Great Indian Family, at best, can be considered a lowbrow and twisted-for-the-worse avatar of the intense, hard-hitting and focused Dharamputra.

Rating: **

Yash Raj Films’ The Great Indian Family  Produced by: Aditya Chopra  Written & Directed by: Vijay Krishna Acharya  Music: Pritam  Starring: Vicky Kaushal, Manushi Chhillar, Kumud Mishra, Manoj Pahwa, Yashpal Sharma, Sadia Siddiqui, Shristi Dixit, Ashutosh Ujjawal, Alka Amin, Bhuvan Arora, Aasif Khan, Hittesh Arrora, Devang Tanna, Saloni Khanna, Paritosh Sand & others





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