How does YOUR family look like?
While some of us may allege picture perfect responses to the above question, we all undeniably suffer from mild to severe cases of dysfunctionality in family relationships – complicating, straining and even estranging each other for self sanity or self centredness, whichever necessary.
The movie set in UP, begins with the collapse (literally) of the music obsessed and old Ramprasad, upon his equally old piano in an unsuccessful attempt to correct a note. Overnight his widow – Amma (as called by her children) summons the family to an unseeming reunion for the funeral rites, to which they oblige with their spouses and kids, dutifully (read: grudgingly). The bickering starts at the entrance, with the brothers arguing who arrived first, the distance and cost of their transport while coveting the fourth, aka the favorite son who always had his way and was yet to arrive, by flight, from Mumbai.
The house is soon enthralled with relatives and neighbors, and when the sons cart away their deceased father on his final journey, their wives are left to grieve (read: to cater to the incessant demands for tea and meals). The movie may mislead the viewer into assuming how it encompasses the traditional rites and rituals, the patriarchal conventions like the tonsuring of the eldest son, the male-only participation of funeral rituals, but the crux of the movie endeavors to expose the unfortunately flawed patterns of established hierarchies in Indian families.
In any given family (initially I would assume, this pattern existed among Asian communities, but a recent social media debate, proved this to be a global phenomenon), the eldest is most likely deemed to be over-protective, accountable and more mature for their age, given the responsibility from childhood over their siblings. They firmly believe that in doing so, they would restore the love and attention lost to them, in favor of their younger kin.
The middle ones are often at a loss, being constantly torn between “obey your elders” and bullying the youngest. They are the victims of constant comparisons and grow up to be either aloof or nit pickers on their older or younger siblings.
I would have to state the obvious, if I am to speak about the youngest ones here. In the movie too, the only child with the ability to see through their mother’s silence and suffering, is the youngest – Nitu or Nishant who was immensely loved and spoiled by all, and therefore had the ability to show this radamancy in full. He arrives without his wife, but when the rituals are extended to a good thirteen days (Tehrvi), his wife Seema (played by Konkona Sen) has to make an inevitable entrance. The other wives waste no time in gossiping, from questioning her life choices and independence, and smirking at her inability to fit in. Seema, who seems to be the only educated and modern woman in the plot, struggles with her constraints and show of solidarity despite the hostility around her. Exhausted by the constant giggling and in-appreciation, she retreats into isolation, which is further misconstrued for laziness and insolence.
Throw in a humorous love angle by Rahul (played by Vikrant Massey), Seema’s oldest nephew who is undeniably besotted with her and understands her taciturn and rebellion.
Everyone and everything is silently watched by Amma, as she skulks through the night, door after door eavesdropping on their grievances that she assumed never existed. She regrets that her brood of children can barely get past their hurts, invalidation, comparisons and judgement and is far from happily living under a single roof, a conception she reminisces sharing with her late husband. She realizes that each of her children, older or younger are individuals in their own right, and ceases to make their future an obligation.
“They have forgotten why they are here, or whom they have lost.”Ram Prasad Ki Tehrvi
As Asians we yet struggle with farcical lines of hierarchy, pre-established by the society of old. While the older have their share of experiences, it does not necessarily make them any wiser or give them the right to discriminate, judge or imperiously pick at their younger siblings.
The younger ones too, have to go past their childhood traumas, however difficult through therapy or self love, and set on self focus without the burden of constant validation or comparison.
Parents need to know that themselves, and other elders are neither infallible nor immune to lack of discernment, and children may have a right to question their decisions at any point. The older children are not duty bound to ‘sacrifice’ their time and passions in favor of their siblings, in return for the right to manipulate and dictate the latter’s decisions. All younger children grow up to adulthood and must be acknowledged on the same plane when that happens. If we as parents, fail to understand that we are capable of being human and making mistakes, we continue to bring forth damaged generations.
Watch the movie for some light moments with seriously brilliant and talented actors. This is not your typical box office commercial but a great show of remarkability by everyone. Each of them significantly crochets their feelings and hidden resentments into this incredulous masterpiece.