In the Indian tradition the battle between the ‘Mother-In-Law’ (MIL) and the ‘Daughter-In-Law’ (DIL) can ruin the life of the key man in their lives – the Mama’s boy who doesn’t quite fathom the need for change post the arrival of a wife in his life. Indeed it requires deft diplomacy and a mature personality to be able to manage this duality.
It is interesting that the ‘DIL’ post her experiences metamorphoses into the role of a ‘MIL’ and the saga continues. Indeed most of our TV serials would be starved of content if they could not find newer ways of depicting this battle. The ‘Father-In-Law’ (FIL), a war veteran can play a constructive role and assuage the frayed nerves. He can help his son negotiate the emotionally landmined terrain of the relationships even though the culture of ‘Joint Family’ is on the wane.
Mahesh Manjrekar was associated with masala hindi movies like Vaastav and Kaante so one would not immediately associate it with him to provide such a refreshing and comic tale on the ‘Saas-Bahu’ saga. In fact the audience is used to bombastic and ‘over-the-top’ melodramas dished out in our TV serials, so not many have seen the story being narrated as a ‘slice-of-life’ of an average upwardly mobile ‘Middle-Class’ family.
The story includes 4 principal characters – Vandana Gupte as the indomitable MIL, Sudhir Joshi (Sanjay Mane replaced him due to the sad demise of Sudhir Joshi and the scenes are intermingled) as the sensitive patriarch and ‘peace-maker’ who tries to effect rapprochement, Madhura Velankar as the spunky ‘modern’ woman who refuses to be a ‘doormat’ wife and Ankush Choudhary as the hapless husband who often fails to read correctly the emotional sub-text of the scenes that play out in their daily lives.
The movie has a feel and look of a TV serial and the production values may not look great compared to what we get to see nowadays. Quite a few support characters may have simply been drawn from common walk of life and indeed leave little impact on the story.
Vandana dominates the story in the first half and the ‘men’ are shown to defer to all her whims and fancies, some of which are quite unreasonable. At this stage Sudhir Joshi seems to be a silent foil and a rather ‘acquiescent’ husband. Madhura’s arrival livens things up and the stage is set for the story to take off. The episodes are common place and will indeed find an echo in many of our own lives.
Through graded concessions and on top of a ‘bike-crash’ episode the story reaches a conclusion where the young couple separate from the seniors and set about living on their own. Even Ankush finally seems to get the message and tries to find the right balance in his relationships. The story becomes interesting as the focus shifts to the elders and how they cope with the situation. It showcases their strong relationship and they are shown to be a doting couple who are ‘rediscovering’ themselves as the other priorities in life have receded.
At just over two hours with the right doses of humour the movie is a great watch and leaves you with a thought to assess your own priorities and relationships. And yes – you are not the only one struggling with these issues. As the Marathi adage goes, ‘Gharo Ghari Matichya Chuli …’ (The issues and problems are fairly common and abound in all homes).