Nirmal Pathak Ki Ghar Wapsi review: A dreary throwback to the days of Doordarshan.
There’s a fine line between being old-fashioned and being out of date, and Nirmal Pathak Ki Ghar Wapsi frequently crosses it. The five-episode SonyLiv drama has the questionable ability to transport you back to the days of Doordarshan, which is ironic for a show that arrives at the pinnacle of the streaming age.
This may not seem like a complement to someone who has grown up on a regular diet of global narrative, but I believe Nirmal Pathak Ki Ghar Wapsi may be somewhat pleasurable for older viewers, for whom an evening’s entertainment meant selecting between three scripted episodes and the news.
Unfortunately for the rest of us, Nirmal Pathak Ki Ghar Wapsi is insufficient. The programme depicts the narrative of the titular Nirmal Pathak, a city-bred guy in his 30s who journeys back to his home town in Bihar to attend a family wedding. It’s a sentimental melodrama that occasionally shifts to hilarious humour. Things are immediately unclear. Why, for example, does Nirmal have two moms, one who speaks English and the other who wears a ghunghat?
We are being given information about Nirmal’s father, a well-respected guy who was expelled from the village many years ago following a mystery dispute with his brother, Nirmal’s ‘chacha.’ This man, who is constantly roaring at the top of his lungs whenever he appears on film, also appears to have a grudge towards Nirmal, whom he perceives as more of an external danger than a reminder of his considerably more brilliant brother.
Domestic disagreements, however, take a back place as the show eventually devolves into some sort of cheap Swades and attempts to address every societal evil in sight. “Yeh ladai aap logon ki hai, meri nahi hai,” a tearful Nirmal tells an elderly lower-caste man in the hamlet.
Nirmal, on the other hand, covers themes as difficult as sexism, municipal corruption, the school system, and the concept of consent throughout the course of four days. However, when his’maa’ becomes seriously ill, he lashes out at his family for downplaying her health problems, saying, “Pura din naukrani jaise kaam karti hain,” oblivious to the discriminating undertone of his cruel comment. Working as a ‘naukrani,’ a person who most likely belongs to society’s most oppressed class, is indicated to be beneath Nirmal’s’maa.’ This sequence is troublesome because it looks that Nirmal Pathak, the show, believes in this idea; Nirmal, the character, is only a megaphone. Nobody engaged in the programme has even realised the underlying significance behind it.
However, this tiny example of embedded classism reveals that the show’s wokeness is not just inorganically integrated in the plot, but it is also performative. A better series, for example, would have avoided the saviour cliche entirely. Nirmal Pathak Ki Ghar Wapsi, on the other hand, parades its protagonist throughout town like a saviour.
The narration moves at a leisurely pace, which I assume is intended to mirror the rural Hindi books to which it is attempting to pay homage—Nirmal is a writer. However, the programme shoots itself in the foot by failing to maintain a consistent tone. And the extremes are simply too severe to bear, especially when syrupy melodrama set to mournful flute music abruptly turns to simple humour with strings going ‘bing-boing.’