In a scene from Disney+Hotstar’s Ghar Waapsi, an older friend takes Shekhar (Vishal Vashishtha) to the outskirts of Indore for a random football game. This friend asks Shekhar, “Akhri baar tuney itna zinda kab feel kiya tha?” after he says the feeling is like a “ferrari se tez heart rate.” Most stories about the struggles of middle-class people use phrases like these to show how they feel. After all, this is a place where it’s harder to talk about things like mental health, being open to everyone, etc. Ghar Waapsi is a good attempt to get to the heart of the middle-class malaise and shake it up. It does some predictable things that most modest dramas do, but inside its familiar walls is a story in the making about the middle classes’ lived-in problems and the many ways they try to deal with them.
Shekhar’s story is told in Ghar Waapsi, with Vashishtha as Shekhar. Shekhar just got fired from his tech job in Bangalore and has to go back to Indore under the guise of a regular trip. Shekhar is thought of as a minor hero until he tells his annoying little secret. It says a lot about him that he went from being the Dwivedi family’s “eye candy” to being the “gremlin” that most people talk about when they are alone. Shekhar has two younger siblings: Sanju and Suruchi. Both of the younger siblings are fiery and wild, even though they have always lived with their family. It shows how submissive Shekhar is and how, after he quit his job, he wants to please people at the expense of his own personality and will.
The Dwivedi family also runs a struggling travel agency. As word gets around that Shekhar doesn’t have a job, the real picture of middle-class India starts to emerge from behind the friendly faces. The kind of India that eats people who have failed or dropped out of school. The most interesting thing about Ghar Waapsi is how the younger siblings can get around punishment whenever they want. Since the oldest went away to make it big, he or she gets more attention. Shekhar walks around with this fact, wears it on his face, but never really shows how he feels about it. Shekhar starts to remember his roots and his entrepreneurial calling when he goes back to his hometown. A job is still a big prize, but now he has to decide between taking care of his broken family or his younger siblings.
The best thing about the show is that the strange things that happen in small towns never get in the way of the drama. There aren’t any larger-than-life characters here just to show how life is outside of the big cities, and it’s nice to see a story that doesn’t try too hard to be weird or off-beat. In fact, the show is very restrained, and it is happy to stay within the familiar boundaries of middle-class language and values. Even though the use of obscenity isn’t meant to make people laugh, it is still an invalid digression. It’s a stamp of middle-class pragmatism that doesn’t lose sight of its morals or give in to all the bad things that come with a hard life.
All of the performances in the show are worth mentioning. There is a clear tension between the two brothers, and the sister is sad at the thought of being left behind. But the Dwivedi family as whole fights and works together in a good way. Atul Srivastava, who plays the family patriarch so well, deserves a lot of praise. Vashishtha, who is the main act, backs him up well. He is commendably raw and frazzled in a rather bulky way that fits with modern work schedules. Shekhar doesn’t have any big plans for his life, and it’s clear that he doesn’t work out. He just wants to get by quietly. He listens to Ted Talks and learns lessons about life wherever he can. When people tell him about his recent problems, he has a look of shame on his face.
When it comes to plot, the series doesn’t do a lot of new things. In fact, it does what it has been taught. For example, the two fighting brothers became friends after doing some harmless harm to each other. It’s strange that modern writing still sees masculinity as a sledgehammer instead of, say, a pen with its own pent-up angst. But other than small hints here and there of a formula, the series lands well, thanks mostly to the performances and the clear way it handles its topics.
Ghar Waapsi is a welcome look at the problems of the middle class from the point of view of the trip back home. In some ways, it’s a lot like Swades, but instead of praising genius, it’s all about changing your point of view. The beginning of a new way of seeing the world, where home is more than just the place you live. It also turns into the bed of dirt you grew up in but forgot how it smelled. To the show’s credit, it doesn’t focus on nostalgia either. Instead, it just shows how blind people were when they chose to look at other things. It’s a series that is told with elegance and restraint. It’s a family drama, which has become too rare in this age of silly comedies that try to be serious. The good news is that this show doesn’t.