Pariwar Review: A Comic Look at How “Zameen” Always Comes First With Families

Pop Culture

Pariwar Review: A Comic Look at How “Zameen” Always Comes First With Families

Illustration: Robin Chakraborty

When the country went into the coronavirus lockdown, many of us made plans to catch up on long-watchlisted shows and movies. But there are only that many shows involving drug lords and hardcore violence or unrealistically shiny, happy families that one can watch. The gloom and doom on news channels doesn’t help either, as Covid-19 cases and the economy follow opposite trajectories. I don’t know about you, but in these trying times, the only thing I want to do is watch a light-hearted comedy with a gripping plot and some feel-good moments that helps me escape the madness around.

Pariwar, streaming on Disney+ Hotstar, is that show. And much more.

As one would have guessed from the name, Pariwar is about a family at war, over a property dispute. The heroes of this show are relatable, everyday characters you encounter in a family: Quarrelling brothers, a shady friend, an Amrika-returned daughter and a mastram house help with his own agenda. It’s one of the many things going for the show, apart from the picturesque setting of Allahabad (sorry, I mean Prayagraj) and a storyline that keeps you engaged – the sheer quality of the ensemble cast which includes Gajraj Rao, Vijay Raaz, Yashpal Sharma, Ranvir Shorey, and Nidhi Singh.

In his late 40s, Gajraj Rao is starting to command a loyal following, with a string of memorable performances from Talvar, to Blackmail, to Badhaai Ho. Vijay Raaz, too, is no stranger to comedy. Known for quirky character roles, his popularity has also made him a favourite in the meme universe, the highest accolade one can aspire to in 2020. With such a cast on display, fireworks are guaranteed, and have been duly delivered.

The premise of the show is rooted in that most desi situation of all. The patriarch Kashiram (Gajraj Rao) has been left on his own by his sons and daughters who are busy with their separate lives. He keeps trying to find new ways to get his sons and daughter to visit him, even faking hospitalisation. The kids, although a bit distant from their father, have a lot of interest in his “will” and the classic “zameen ka batwara”. And so, once they all get together, the circus begins to unfold.

The conflict of land

Kashiram has given away a large chunk of land to his theatre actor friend Gangaram (Vijay Raaz), who has promised to build an ashram there. Gangaram, in turn, comes across as a scheming character who seems to have a wicked plan – but is he more scheming than Kashiram’s children? In order to get his way, Gangaram needs an NOC (no objection certificate) from Kashiram’s sons and daughter. And herein lies the heart of the conflict.

Kashiram’s sons Mahipal (Yashpal Sharma) and Shishupal (Ranvir Shorey) distrust Gangaram, and want the land to be sold for industrial use so they can mint money. The America-returned daughter Mandakini (Nidhi Singh) couldn’t care much about the land, but she falls in love with Gangaram’s son (Abhishek Banerjee). The spectator with a bird’s-eye view of this drama is the househelp Babloo (Kumar Varun), who also doubles up as the quirky narrator.

Pariwar presents the viewer with insightful comedy on the dysfunctional Indian family that we are all a party to.

Will Kashiram be able to unite his kids? What is Gangaram’s master plan? Who will get his/her way with the land? As the story explores these areas, it presents the viewer with insightful comedy on the dysfunctional Indian family that we are all a party to. There is a hilarious moment in the show where the children have to pay Kashiram’s hospital bill but they all start making excuses and try to force the other one into paying it since no one wants that burden. In another instance, the family gathers for a havan, all decked up – but then the quarrelling begins, ruining everyone’s mood, resulting in people walking away. What’s an auspicious Indian event without some bitching?

At the end of the day, Pariwar universalises several emotions. Who doesn’t relate to an old desi dad who craves his children’s attention? Or a sibling rivalry that gets personal at times resulting in a heated exchange? Who doesn’t know a friend who is in it only for his fayda?

An insightful look inside “new India”

What really stands out for the show, though, is how the story is able to capture some of the intriguing elements of new India: Like the young pandit who aspires to excel in physics, the America-returned daughter who misses eating the local gutka, the househelp who is adept at technology and a family function where pineapple-on-pizza is served.

Mahipal’s wife Manju (Anurita Jha) wants to start her own coaching institute in Banaras while Shishupal’s wife Anju (Sadiya Siddiqui) aspires to be a model. The writing, by Gaganjeet Singh and Shantanu Anam, has ensured that the show is fiercely rooted in desi characters and their outlook towards life. Some of Allahabad’s majestic temples and green fields also make a notable mention, along with the subtle linguistic quirks and dressing habits.

The characters drive the show and the performances from the cast keep one hooked.

Although the story can seem a bit jumpy at times, the writing packs a punch and scores high on delivering comic moments continuously. The characters drive the show and the performances from the cast keep one hooked. Every time Vijay Raaz enters the frame, he draws all the attention with that trademark dialogue delivery and subtle variations in expressions.

Gajraj Rao is effortless as ever, with Kashiram being a subdued yet calming presence. Ranvir Shorey and Yashpal Sharma have masterfully brought out the nok-jhok element of their relationship, with their bickering making for some of the funniest moments of the show. The seasoned Sadiya Siddiqui and Anurita Jha deliver splendid performances, given their unique dynamic in the family (they are sisters who got interchanged when their marriage was to be fixed to Kashiram’s two sons).

Pariwar leaves us with a heartening takeaway, that there are conflicts and fights within every family, but it is only family that is always there for you during tough times. As all our moms say, “Jab main chali jaungi, tab pata chalega.” It is a trope that the show takes literally, in a hilarious finale.

Pariwar is streaming on Disney+ Hotstar.