WKND OTT Review: Ramprasad Ki Tehrvi
Funerals, a lot like weddings, are symbolic. Especially Indian ones. Symbolic of emotional equations and power plays that underlie a ceremony involving “The Family”. Long-buried secrets, simmering tensions, resentments and (personal) political dynamics suddenly get swept into one venue, where protracted action — in the form of rituals and ‘traditions’ (in this case, North Indian, Hindu ones) — continues to boil over for days. Ramprasad Ki Tehrvi is about what happens over the 13-day ‘mourning’ period when a patriarch dies suddenly, and the “scattered” family troops over from different parts of India to congregate in a small town — all carrying individual abstract baggage that soon spills out in full force.
The movie premiered in pre-pandemic times (end of 2019) at a film festival but its theatrical release was stalled till the beginning of this year; Netflix picked up rights for streaming, where it released last month. Our mental maps have altered irrevocably in the intervening Covid-19 period so, in a sense, Ramprasad Ki Tehrvi is almost prescient: how did the makers know humour may, in fact, be a good antidote to tragedy — without giving any answers — at a time when there was no collective death toll?
There have been many Bollywood movies where squabbling family or community members work their way around a crisis — mostly with the help of a catalyst — and emerge triumphant. In this one, what stays with you is the façade of uneasy closure, which may not actually be a closure. Interlocking comedy, tragedy and grey areas, I thought, was quite a feat. The unsavoury realities of how much a passing really impacts those around — or whether at all (except notionally perhaps) — is cleverly disguised in typical desi-setting quirky fun, but it doesn’t take away for a single minute the baseline: how a life can be rendered irrelevant in a shot… or a cardiac arrest.
The final question you are left to mull over is whether a funeral is really about the departed, or about the private battles of those taking part in the process of grieving?
The best bits? The tour de force performances by the entire cast; every single one of them gets into the skin of their characters. You’d assume bigger stars like Naseeruddin or Konkona would steal the show, but this is a stellar ensemble performance. If you had to choose a first among equals, my money would be on Supriya Pathak, the newly-minted widow, who’s a helpless spectator to what’s unfolding around her, too stricken by grief to grandstand at the tragi-comedy, yet too emotively invested to not be observant.
The worst bits? There may be a certain judgement created in your mind: how does a tragedy equate with comedy, how can there be any lighter side to a death? The impeccable screenplay — literally talking to you — takes care of that, putting in pieces together of a deconstructed puzzle.