Director: Habib Faisal
Cast: Annu Kapoor, Supriya Pilgaonkar, Amol Parashar, Parikshit Sahni, Chetna Pandey, Himani Shivpuri, Paritosh Sand
Streaming on: ALTBalaji
The problem with even some of the (relatively) better ALTBalaji web shows, such as Home, Bose: Dead or Alive and The Test Case, is that you can easily sense the moments at which they infuse the “ALT” into Balaji, and vice versa. You can sense the SEO keywords, the designed progressiveness, because the Bala-verse is essentially trying to introduce their humungous saas-bahu fan-base to (their version of) an edgy new vision. As a result, it feels very methodical.
For example, Home, a 12-episode series about a middle-class Mumbai family at the center of an illegal housing crisis, sets this tone early on. In a noisy society meeting run by self-important elders, the camera begins to focus on the younger characters. We see a chap showing his pals a photograph of a potential partner – “I’m tired of masturbating, yaar,” he sighs. Another couple at the back communicates in horny whispers: “let’s fuck, I’m ovulating,” she suggests. The running voiceover of the Sethi family’s youngest, 20-something Vansh (Amol Parashar), declares that “if the government wants to fuck you, you’ll be fucked and how.” Later we see him randomly smoking weed on the terrace with his cousin (he is never shown doing this for the rest of the season). Even later, we see him source a stent for Grandfather Sethi’s (an eternal Parikshit Sahni) failing heart through Twitter in the nick of time.
You can sense the SEO keywords, the designed progressiveness, because the Bala-verse is essentially trying to introduce their humungous saas-bahu fan-base to (their version of) an edgy new vision
His mother (the lovely Supriya Pilgaonkar) at one point fears she has Breast Cancer – a sub-plot that is more token-awareness device than narrative device. His father (Annu Kapoor) is a noble man who has been left behind in life because of his inability to “adapt” to the modern workspace culture. The youngsters of the co-operative band together and start a trendy hashtag (#SaveKalaKruti) on social media. When Vansh wants to ask a famous news anchor at a pub to feature their problem on his show, he does a socially conscious stand-up set on stage to get his attention instead. The Sethi daughter is going through a separation period from her alcoholic husband – it is revealed she was a great Emcee before marriage. Even one of the episodes is titled “Time’s Up”. I’m just surprised there are no gay tenants or live-in couples in the mix.
The point being: these little colours don’t mesh in organically. It’s almost sweet that the makers are trying to be cool and timely, but Home at its heart is a scaled-down Balaji soap. It’s like the old guy trying to act hip and happening at a college party. The middle-class (Malad?) 3-BHK flats don’t look too cramped – even their messiness looks organized and clean. Flashbacks of them buying the house decades ago look like an Asian Paints spot. You can see the families in their frumpy clothes and petty disputes, but you can’t smell them like we do in director Habib Faisal’s own Do Dooni Chaar. Faisal tries to invoke those lived-in spatial dynamics through a bunch of fine veteran actors, but you know precisely where the producers decide to have a say. They have to appeal to the “youth” after all.
There are some vaguely poignant threads too: the relationship between the patriarch and his more successful brother, the parents’ handling of their daughter’s shattered marriage, and the ambiguous little fling that Vansh has during the chaos.
It’s a little tragic that Home isn’t as memorable as it should have been. It all comes down to Balaji’s obsession with themes – feminism/army (The Test Case), freedom struggle (Bose), homosexuality (Romil & Jugal), erotica (Gandii Baat, Fourplay, XXX)
But the BMC-versus-society battle is goofy (the builders are never mentioned), the show loses its emotional core once it zooms out from the Sethis and segues into other minor households, and the climax hinges on a cliffhanger that involves a bulldozer arm, a staying order and…an abortion at a clinic. Believe it or not, the horny couple is about to abort their baby because their flat will be demolished – this track is so tone-deaf and badly acted that it’s almost comedic.
The surest sign that a show has overstayed its welcome: you feel like you haven’t missed out on much merely by watching an episode recap. It’s a little tragic that Home isn’t as memorable as it should have been. It all comes down to Balaji’s obsession with themes – feminism/army (The Test Case), freedom struggle (Bose), homosexuality (Romil & Jugal), erotica (Gandii Baat, Fourplay, XXX). Unlike most multi-season series that rely on their characters and writing to take the non-narrative forward, these shows are created around a market-based “unique selling point”.
The Mumbai housing politics scene is the angle for Home. All it really should have been was one family – Heaven knows just inhabiting this city is the biggest angle a storyteller needs.