Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Are we defined by our religious identities, or are we more than the sum of our surnames and the gods we pray to? The 2023 Bollywood comedy ‘The Great Indian Family’ attempts to explore these questions in a light-hearted manner. However, despite the laudable intent of the makers, the script is quite slippery.

Written and directed by Vijay Krishna Acharya, “The Great Indian Family” follows the misadventures of local singer Ved Vyas Tripathi (Vicky Kaushal), the son of a devout Hindu priest, who faces an existential crisis when he finds out he was born to Muslim parents. This revelation also gives a lot of fodder to a rival priest to cause problems for the Tripathi family and Ved’s romantic affection for a Sikh girl complicates things further.

“The Great Indian Family” is supposed to be a colorful comedy celebrating religious plurality. However, despite beginning on a fun and joyous note, it’s largely bland, relying on stereotypes and silly jokes that only those living in an ignorant bubble would find amusing. For instance, the protagonist and his friends mistakenly believe that Muslims greet each other by saying “Allahu Akbar,” even though kids half their age would know that “As-salamu alaykum” is the appropriate greeting. And since it’s the 21st century, a simple “hello” would do really.

Due to slight similarity in titles, it’s hard not to think how the 2022 Indian series “‘The Great Weddings of Munnes” was a lot more hilarious and entertaining. Vicky Kaushal is mildly comedic in his role as Ved, who is also known as Bhajan Kumar, popular for singing devout songs. He is flanked by a talented support cast that includes Manoj Pahwa, Kumud Mishra and Sadiya Siddiqui. Manushi Chillar plays Ved’s romantic interest, but the romantic sub-plot could’ve been chopped from the movie and it would’ve made little difference to the overall story and themes. While music is also an important ingredient in the tale, the original soundtrack fails to leave a memorable impression, except for the opening song which introduces Ved.

“The Great Indian Family” concludes with a disappointing climax where an entire family faces a humiliating public trial. Despite their eventual triumph, the creators inadvertently lend credence to the problematic “log kya kahengey?” (what will people say?) mentality prevalent in many Indian families, where the opinions of outsiders are given more importance than the feelings of our own kin. The writers should’ve done a better job.

Rating: 5 on 10. You can stream the film on Prime Video.

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