This Is Us: The Family Drama India Deserves But Never Got

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This Is Us: The Family Drama India Deserves But Never Got

Illustration: Akshita Monga

W

hen the crime-thrillers and stand-up shows are over and done with, all of us settle into nighttime TV, wearing our pyjamas and holding a bowl of comforting noodles, wanting nothing more than to pig out on highly emo family drama. It’s the only thing that can truly satisfy the soul. For everyone who has ever sat in their PJs and longed for family feels, NBC has bestowed us with This Is Us. The show, which was nominated for the Best Drama TV series among all top categories at last night’s Golden Globes, walked away with the Best Actor honour.

This Is Us looks a lot like a typical family drama on the surface but it’s anything but typical. Its stylistic story-telling technique embraces past and present narratives, but the soul of the series does not lie there. It lies in how even an abundance of love is sometimes not enough.

And there is abundant love in This Is Us. At the heart of the story are parents who want nothing but the best for their children, even the “different” ones. A young mother, Rebecca, has lost her child but a wise old doctor tells her husband that you can take the sourest lemon that life hands you, and turn it into something resembling lemonade. Which is how Jack and Rebecca bring into a white family, a tiny black abandoned newborn called Randall.

This Is Us

In NBC’s This Is Us, The Big Three — Randall, Kevin and Kate — are the fulcrum of the story.

Image credit: 20th Century Fox Television

The Big Three — Randall, Kevin and Kate — are the fulcrum of the story. As one-third of three siblings, I don’t think I’ve connected with anything as much as I did with the bond they share. Resentful, and at times even awkward, each of them with all their flaws intact, take time to bloom and discover their undeniable love for each other. Randall overflows with kindness, while Kevin brings the anger and the pathos, and Kate continues to be the source of calm among the siblings. Early on in the second season, you notice that the triplets aren’t fully there as far as understanding each other is concerned, and in all probability one of them might not get there at all.

But This Is Us isn’t merely about sibling love and rivalry. It’s also about the parents, employed in the uphill task of raising the triplets. And all the highs and lows that come with it.

With the passage of time, the child in you learns to forgive your parents for the biases they unknowingly create among their children. You learn to accept that they can’t possibly be right and fair at all times, that they too will falter, and it is well within your capacity to hold them in the highest regard despite their imperfections.

As an adult, you see that it is the tiniest things that children latch onto in their growing years which eventually shape what they turn out to be as grown-ups. We learn that there’s no love greater and more selfless than that of a close-knit family. This Is Us teaches us that there’s nothing sadder than watching a father accept that he cannot solve all the problems his children will face. Or that a mother’s heart can contain all the storms of the sea and yet have enough kindness and love to give her children.

More than anything else, Pakistani dramas thrive on the different iterations of the underlying concept of whether love is enough to keep a family together.

The last time I felt all of these emotions at the same time was when I was on a binge-watching spree of Pakistani dramas. My heart cried for Sadaf in Thakan when she was betrayed by her own family at every step. I felt the same upheaval as the characters of Diyar-e-Dil who struggle to come to terms with whether it is even possible to survive without a family. There were moments in Daagh where I wanted to strangle Murad’s mother for the atrocities she inflicted upon Umama. My heart broke a little each time Umama was insulted for being unable to give birth to a son.

More than anything else, Pakistani dramas thrive on the different iterations of the underlying concept of whether love is enough to keep a family together. I don’t ever remember feeling anything like this while watching something on Indian TV, not even Bigg Boss. And this elusive feeling has kept me hooked to Pakistani tele-serials as well as This Is Us.

After all, what are we without our families? This Is Us is all of us.

 

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