Nostalgia is a gift that keeps giving. Since the past decade, Bollywood has come up with several films that milked the nostalgia factor. Some TV series have set their content in the eighties and nineties as well. Now, TVF comes with a web series that’s very helpfully titled Summer of 98. As the name suggests, the series tells about the summer vacations of a 13-year-old Indian boy. It’s a little bit ‘Diary of a Wimpy Kid’ meets ‘Hyderabad Blues’ to begin with but is an overall fun watch.
The world of the Indian 90s has been used as a plot point several times, but more often it talks about the crime and the underworld and all that. Very rarely has the middle class been spoken about. A series that would talk about the everyday life of people in the 90s has a nostalgic and a cute value to it and a strong recall value. After all, several generations have grown up on series like Banegi Apni Baat, Wagle ki Duniya, Mungerilal ke Haseen Sapne etc. These were the serials where ‘nothing happened’ but people lapped them up like nobody’s business.
So, Yeh Meri Family is unapologetically Indian, and does a good job of giving a picture of India at that time – complete with Frooti, Rooh Afza, Maruti 1000 and the VCRs. The screenplay shines through and does a good job of reminding Indians how innocent and politically incorrect we have grown up. The dialogues will have the audience smiling and nodding all through.
What’s impressive is that the art directors have gone the extra mile to create an exact carbon copy of how tv series looked in the late 80s to 90s. It’s not just the props and the accessories and the screenplay that are a hark to the late 80s and the 90s. The colour palette and the camera angles and to an extent even the performances are a channelling of entertainment in those decades.
On the performance front, Mona Singh does what she’s supposed to do as the mother of three kids that are growing up in an India that’s at the cusp of the digital revolution. Vishesh Bansal is the protagonist and the charm magnet that keeps the audience engrossed. He does an amazing job as Harshu. This guy is a natural in front of the camera and will go a long way.
What’s Wow: Nostalgia boosts are good. Shows like these, which aren’t just cosmetically based in the decades gone by but also have their DNA stamped in that time is good news for the streaming market.
What’s Blah: There’s nothing wrong with the show per se, but the timelines seem a bit off. In the episodes that were up for viewing, there wasn’t a mention of some of the fast food franchises that had cropped up in India by then, nor were the characters wanting to go to a multiplex, rather than a single screen. Like, 98 was just two years before 2000, that was the time foreign programming like Star TV and AXN were part and parcel of the Indian middle class – Shaktimaan or no Shaktimaan.
Then again, as you binge watch the series, it somehow seems that the director wanted to get the point across that the series is set in that timeline. In almost every set piece, there’s the CRT TV with the plastic still on, the CRT PC with the plastic cover still on. There’s Bryan Adams and Arnold Schwarzenegger posters sharing a wall, and then there’s Rooh Afza and Gold Spot. We get it, it’s based in the 90s, yippie kie yay (There’s a nineties dialogue for you), now get on with the show. Maybe all these props come up glaringly because the actual script is not something that’ll blow your mind, but keep you mildly engaged.
Parting Shot: Another popcorn, family entertainer from the world of TVF.
Cast: Vishesh Bansal, Ruhi Khan, Akarsh Khurana, Anahn Nirban, Revathi Pillai, Prasad Reddy, Mona Singh
Directed By: Sameer Sexana
Yeh Meri Family is now streaming on TVF Play