Cast: Vicky Kaushal, Manushi Chillar, Kumud Mishra, Manoj Pahwa
Director: Vijay Krishna Acharya
Writer: Vijay Krishna Acharya
Yash Raj Films’ The Great Indian Family is not a novel idea. Not by any margin. This is a theme that has been dealt with in the past, in the Hindi film industry alone, multiple times. But more importantly, it probably draws inspiration from Dhool Ka Phool and Dharmputra, Yash Chopra’s first two directorial ventures. It deals with the one of most essential aspects of Indian society – tolerance, pluralism, and peaceful coexistence.
We have Ved Vyas Tripathi, famous among his followers as Bhajan Kumar, a scion of a famous Pandit family in the fictional town Balrampur. His world comes crashing down when he discovers that he was actually born to Muslim parents. Thrown into the story is a dose of jealousy, insecurity, and thuggery. And we have a proper conflict, personal and social.
Obviously, the question raised is – How do you differentiate a Hindu from a Muslim? Can you really? The blood is still red. In a scene where Vicky Kaushal’s Ved Vyas Tripathi is struggling with his newfound truth, he asks his Muslim friends, who stay in the nearby ghetto, to teach him how to act like a Muslim. The visible differences, as per Tripathi, are – what you wear, the language you speak, and what you eat. He is flummoxed when his friend eats the roti with the sabji, just like he does at home.
Clearly, there is little space for subtlety in this movie. The screenplay makes no bones about it, almost to the point of sounding slightly peachy. And maybe a tad bit too unrealistic, in terms of the young generation, in the age of the internet, being so clueless about customs apart from their own. Especially when the protagonist beseeches God Krishna to reincarnate and log on to Twitter. And there is more to it. The film also delves into democracy – the rule of the majority. But like its take on religion, its take on democracy also comes across as superficial. The pits in the screenplay is somewhat made up for by the dialogues, which sustain the characters while delivering short laughs occasionally.
What shines amidst this is Vicky Kaushal’s performance – initially as a charming Bhajan Kumar and then the conflicted son of a Pandit, who is not sure how to face his own self after having considered Muslims a completely different species for all his life. His body language through the conflict speaks as much as his dialogues. His company is a firm Kumud Mishra, who plays his role of the Pandit to perfection. The rest of the cast does not quite find the space to sparkle, but they all come in as a team to make this story as convincing as possible.
What matters for this film is the intent. And that is clear. The makes, director Vijay Krishna Acharya and producers Yash Raj Films, were looking at making a statement. In an era when many filmmakers have moved away from social commentary to mundane masala, The Great Indian Family aims to hark back to an age when films made social commentary too. And they choose the one of most pertinent issues facing the country today, without relaying any political message whatsoever. And that alone should hold this film… and your interest in it.
The Great Indian Family is now available on Prime Video.
Also read – Guru Dutt’s Pyaasa | The Classic Reviews