Seema Pahwa, who was recently seen in films such as Bareilly Ki Barfi and Shubh Mangal Saavdhan, dons the dual mantle of writer and director with Ramprasad Ki Tehrvi. Drawing from personal experiences, she crafts a satirical snapshot of the bustle that’s customary at large Indian family gatherings.
The story unfolds as the extended family congregates to mourn the passing of patriarch Ram Prasad Bhargava (Naseeruddin Shah in a special appearance).
Bhargava’s sudden death requires his four sons and two daughters (with their respective spouses and offspring) to reunite from different parts of the country at the family home in Lucknow. During the mourning period, which ends on January 1, through various events and conversations, we learn of the complexities and fractured nature of their interpersonal relationships.
Even as the family mechanically goes through the rituals, the 13-day-mourning period becomes an extended family reunion over the winter holidays. But the question of who will take care of the widowed mother (Supriya Pathak) hangs in the air.
The older men (including Manoj Pahwa, Vinay Pathak, Ninad Kamat and Parambrata Chatterjee) make a den on the terrace, while the women (Divya Jagdale, Deepika Amin, Sadiya Siddiqui and Konkona Sen Sharma) gossip and spar over endless orders for tea in the kitchen. The next-gen (Vikrant Massey, Sawan Tank) deals with its growing pains. The banter between siblings, daughters and daughters-in-law is easy, often acerbic. The performances and dialogue are the strongest suits and keep you interested even when the visual crafting feels limited.
It’s all very normal. No dark secrets are locked away in the dusty closet. Through the family politics and ensuing issues of debt and inheritance, the film explores notions of duty, guilt, appreciation, remorse and reinvention, sometimes too simplistically. Pahwa uses her camera, editing and sound design to economically capture conversations in frame and also just within earshot. However, the music and songs occasionally drown out the characters and situations and the narrative flow is uneven at times.
Back in the expansive home, a downhearted mother is dismayed to note that, throughout the 13 days, there is barely any attention paid to the deceased or his memory. But does death have to be just sorrowful? Can’t it also be a celebration of life?