There’s an endless scroll of content on streaming platforms, which is why some lesser-known masterpieces often go unnoticed. In our series of posts called Hidden Gems, we explore some underrated shows that are totally worth your time. One such show is The Viral Fever’s (TVF) Yeh Meri Family, streaming on Netflix.
A throwback to childhood innocence
TVF has carved a niche for itself in the world of web series by making lighthearted, relatable content. Shows like Kota Factory, Hostel Daze and the recent Panchayat have struck a chord with viewers. From the same stable is the lesser known Yeh Meri Family, an endearing ode to childhood in the 1990s.
The series is set in Jaipur in the summer of 1998. Thirteen-year-old Harshal Gupta aka Harshu (Vishesh Bansal) is excited about his summer vacation and has every intention to make the most of it. Naturally things don’t go according to plan. Harshu is the black sheep of his family, caught between a studious older brother and an adorable baby sister. He is often chided for his average academic record (bade bhaiya has set the bar high with his stellar grades), and seems to be at the receiving end of his parents’ wrath more frequently than his siblings.
There are striking similarities to the popular American sitcom Malcolm in the Middle. Like Malcolm, Harshu is a middle child. And like Malcolm, Harshu breaks the fourth wall to address the audience. He has a disciplinarian mom and an easy-going dad, both of whom are reminiscent of Lois and Hal. But this is as far as similarities between the two shows go. Yeh Meri Family aims to capture the innocence of childhood, a time when your biggest nemeses are your parents, the hardest decision in life is choosing between Monopoly and Super Mario, and all your scheming and plotting is only directed towards getting your parents to let you go out with your friends.
To Harshu, of course, none of his problems seem trivial. He is devastated upon learning that his mother has arranged for a tutor to teach him during the holidays. He’s even more upset when he doesn’t get to spend his birthday the way he wants. He doesn’t want his overweight dad to drop him to school knowing his mates will make fat jokes. Harshu groaning about the numerous difficulties in his life forms the crux of the show.
In true TVF style, the show brings together an ensemble of likeable characters. Mona Singh plays Harshu’s mom who, like every mother, conceals a soft heart underneath a hardened exterior. Akarsh Khurana is delightful as the affable dad who doesn’t enjoy in disciplining his kids. Ahan Nirban is perfectly cast as the scholarly older brother while Ruhi Khan is adorable as the youngest member of the family. The most inspired performance, though, comes from Prasad Reddy as Shanky, Harshu’s wise best friend who seems to have a solution to all of his problems. He talks like an adult and fills Harshu’s naive mind with ingenious ideas.
There’s plenty of nostalgia for kids of the ’90s
The series paints a vivid picture of life and times in the late 1990s. From the Maruti Esteem driven by Harshu’s dad to the family bringing home a cooler for the summer, everything transports us back to the decade. We hear on the radio about India’s memorable win over Australia at Sharjah thanks to Sachin Tendulkar’s heroics. There are no cell phones, tablets and laptops. The kids’ most prized possessions are comic books, WWF trump cards and a walkman. In restaurants, we see bottles of Gold Spot being served.
The show recalls forgotten social phenomena, such as the typical ’90s’ birthday party, that was only complete when the birthday boy or girl was embarrassed by being forced to dance for the guests. Harshu’s brother Dabbu sneakily watches Fashion TV on the television late at night and flips through Debonair, an erstwhile adult magazine, in his free time. There are plenty of such ‘been there, done that’ moments that will resonate with ’90s’ kids.
It’s all about sibling love
Yeh Meri Family‘s best moments are about the dynamics between the three siblings. Harshu’s equation with his little sister Dhwani melts your heart. With his older brother Dabbu he shares a love-hate relationship. Dabbu often makes the most of his big brother status and makes life difficult for Harshu, who looks at ways of getting back. At the end of the day, however, they have each other’s back. On one occasion, Harshu takes the blame and some beating over a crime that Dabbu is guilty of. In return, Dabbu lobbies a favour for Harshu from their mother. “Nothing should come between brothers, not even parents”, Harshu asserts.
An ode to the innocence of childhood, Yeh Meri Family warms the heart and sends folks who grew up in the 1990s on a fuzzy nostalgia trip.
Director: Sameer Saxena
Writers: Sameer Saxena, Saurabh Khanna
Cast: Vishesh Bansal, Mona Singh, Akarsh Khurana, Ahan Nirban, Ruhi Khan
Seasons: 1 (2018)
Streaming on: Netflix
For more hidden gems, see here.