The scenes in first time writer-director Seema Pahwa’s slice of life drama would find resonance with many grieving families.
Rating: 4 / 5
By Mayur Lookhar
Life and death are accompanied by customs, rituals in every culture, every race globally. A multi-cultural nation like India naturally sees all kinds of customs, rituals. Birth date, weddings naturally call for jubilant customs, celebrations, but in India, death can also result in unintended amusement.
First-time writer-director Seema Bhargava Pahwa takes a slice of life story post a death in a family. Ramprasad Bhargava [Naseeruddin Shah], a humble Rae Bareli music teacher, fittingly breathes his last on his piano. He leaves behind his wife Lali [Supriya Pathak], six children and a bank loan, that is only discovered by the family after his death. The four sons, their respective wives, and two sisters are faced with a familiar conundrum, who takes Amma [mother in Hindi] with him/her and how to repay the bank loan?
There are the four shirking sons – Gajraj [Manoj Pahwa], Manoj [Ninad Kamat] Pankaj [Vinay Pathak], Nishant [Parambrata Chattopadhyay] – two sisters – the sulking older daughter Rani [Anubha Fatehpuria] and the loving, caring Dhaani [Sarika Singh] . All married, each have their own family, respective worries and that makes them edgy in taking keys decision surrounding the Bhargava family. We have the reluctant respective daughter-in-laws, Sushma [Deepika Amin], Sulekha [Divya Jadgdale], Pratibha [Sadiya Siddiqui] and Seema [Konkana Sen Sharma]. There’s Prakash [Bijendra Kala] the nagging, egoistic older jijaji (brother-in-law), a disgruntled mamaji [played by Vineet Kumar], Tauji [big brother – played by Rajendra Gupta] who is more keen on flaunting his English than mourning the loss of his younger brother Ramprasad. And we also have Rahul [Vikrant Massey], of the many grandchildren of Ramprasad. The young man is more keen on having some fun in this hour of grief. So many characters, but when you have few siblings, six children, this is bound to be big one big family. However, despite the large turnout, poor Amma still finds herself alone.
One may be quick to ridicule Ramprasad’s children as selfish, uncaring, but hey this is the story that perhaps plays in most Indian households. We live in a world where relationships survive on the economy of currency than human bonds. Nothing remains constant and frayed family’s ties is a sad reality.
Frayed family ties have been the bread-and-butter subjects of TV soaps. While the drama in Seema Pahwa’s Ramprasad Ki Tehrvi seems familiar, but its the refreshing, realistic story-telling that sets this film apart from the boring, melodramatic soaps. While most people still long for long celebrations, but many still cry lack of time for mourning. The grind of life often sees one hurrying up the customs, rituals, few shirk responsibility in the hour of mourning. The scenes that follow in the aftermath of Ramprasad’s death will find resonance with many Indian, especially middle class households. To the non-Bhargava, the drama in the Ramprasad household can appear very amusing. And no we are not being insensitive to the Bhargavas here.
Rightly released on 1 January, also the day of Ramprasad’s tehrvi (Hindu ritual on the 13 day upon the death of a family member), Ramprasad Ki Tehrvi thrives on Pahwa’s robust screenplay, her astute direction and the stellar acts of its ensemble cast. Most of these are veterans or seasoned pros, and they stay true to their talent. Seema’s husband Manoj Pahwa has been acing these intense roles that fans might soon forget that he was once famous for comedy. You are left with your jaws open when an inebriated Gajraj tells his brothers that as the eldest child, he had seen his parents in their birthday suit many a times.
Pahwa and Supriya Pathak are standout performers here. Unheralded names like Anubha Fatehpuria and Sarika Singh impress with their talent and intensity. For a first-time director, Seema Pahwa shows great maturity at managing the talent at her disposal. The fine writing, dialogues, characterization and top-notch performances make Ramprasad Ki Tehrvi a fine watch. You are intrigued though by the few shades to Konkana’s character Seema.
Death leads to a grim atmosphere in the house. However, the dim lights, misty atmosphere makes it difficult to identity certain faces in the early part of the film. Besides, certain names are only revealed in later conversations. But they don’t take much away from the film.
In the end credits, Seema Bhargava has thanked her late parents. While relationships change with time, Pahwa’s film reminds us why we should never forget to thank our parents, those who shaped our lives. The living has to live on with their mundane lives, but never erase the dead from our memory. You are no family or acquaintance, but do pay your respect on Ramprasad Ki Tehrvi. A big THANK YOU to Seema Bhargava for this slice of life experience in the aftermath of a death. 2021 has started on a bittersweet note.
Produced by Jio Studios, Drishyam Films, Ramprasad Ki Tehrvi is currently running in theatres.