The show that's all heart is a delectable cocktail of small-town charm, innocence, humour, romance and family ties
A seemingly stingy Haridas and an innocent Rukmini are parents to a wayward, lazy son Mahesh. Mahesh has very little ambition, is neither good at academics nor aware of worldly realities. He falls in love with his neighbour Keerthi, who takes her own time to respond to his advances. Meanwhile, their little world is shattered when Haridas passes away and leaves behind a debt of Rs 25 lakh. How does the family deal with this situation?
Humour is always an excellent tool to establish interpersonal relationships in the visual medium. When done rightly and backed by strong intent, a good dose of laughter can create an impact that's much more profound than verbose, preachy dialogue and melodrama. The creators of Oka Chinna Family Story, Mahesh Uppala and Manasa Sharma, walk that tightrope between clean humour and sensitivity. There's more to this show beyond its comic exterior, that's both an effective coming-of-age tale besides being a poignant ode to parenthood.
Oka Chinna Family Story is rooted in reality and works on a fantastic premise, building its world with delectable detailing. Set up amidst a small community in Warangal, the show is inhabited by several oddball, relatable characters that one often comes across in small-town neighbourhoods. Moms and sons bond over Marvel movies, the grandma can't do without her dose of television soaps. One of the neighbours is a show-off while the aunts gossip in Whatsapp groups. Nothing in their lane can remain a secret. The show doesn't use them for comic relief alone and gives each of them their own identity.
The story is about a lower-middle-class family that is clueless about repaying a debt of Rs 25 lakh left behind by the patriarch who's no more - there's nothing laughable about their plight on paper. In this dire situation, the show takes an unexpected turn and wins your heart, showcasing the naivety and the innocence with which the mother-son duo tries to come up with a solution. Despite being pushed to the brink, they don't give up easily or lose sight of their little joys. Their journey is filled with several interesting twists and turns.
The show gets its middle-class milieu bang on - there are old television sets, toothbrushes that remain unchanged for months, the mother and the son are a gang while a father takes note of the family expenses daily, drives a Chetak, constantly chiding the son to take charge of his life. The laughs never dry up in the initial episodes despite missing out on emotional depth. The family's reaction to the loan-recovery agents is hilarious, though the writing gets slightly redundant later.
The idea of the protagonist turning a loan recovery agent to delay the loan repayment is brilliantly conceived and gives a new zing to the narrative. The romance between Mahesh and his neighbour Keerthi takes off on a sluggish note but picks up momentum sooner. Yet, one ends up feeling that this thread could have done with more meat. The lifeline of the show is still the camaraderie between the mother and the son. It's all credit to the brilliance of Sangeeth Shobhan and Tulasi that these sequences, conversations laced with charm, innocence and unmissable sarcasm, explode when they come together.
Oka Chinna Family Story finds its true purpose and gets its emotional beats right in the final episode. It also sums up the essence of the story in one stroke, be it the belongingness in a community or the hidden depth in family ties. The show charts the transformation of Mahesh quite effectively, subtly and leaves a lump in the throat, forcing us to look back at the many minor, major sacrifices of parents that go unnoticed in our lives. Despite being made for an OTT audience, the show has several whistle-worthy moments that would have made it a hoot at the theatres too.
Sangeeth Shobhan continues his terrific form after The Baker and the Beauty and gets a colourful role that offers scope to showcase his exploits to the fullest. He has everything in him to be a future star - the dialogue delivery, the body language, the performance and his common-manly charm. There's immense potential in him that's begging to be tapped. His on-screen love interest Simran Sharma does a decent job in a likeable role though it doesn't provide her with the bandwidth to shine fully.
Veterans Naresh and Tulasi have another wonderful platform to prove why they deserve to be celebrated as performers all the more. It's hard to imagine what Oka Chinna Family Story would've been like minus their presence. Naresh is tailormade to play the role of a father who hides his love for his son with his indifferent exterior and compromises on his dreams for the well-being of the family. Tulasi is spontaneity personified in the shoes of Rukmini, an innocent mother who doesn't have a life beyond her son.
Prameela Rani is aptly cast as the grandma while Getup Srinu, Rajeev Kanakala, Prem Sagar are wonderful in their brief roles. Raju Edurolu's cinematography does full justice in capturing the simplicity, the innocence of the small-town ambience visually and lends character to the backdrops. PK Dandi's earthy tunes complement the story well.
Oka Chinna Family Story is a dramedy rooted in reality with a riveting premise, driven by clean humour, wacky characters. The apt casting, sparkling performances and superb dialogues make it a thoroughly enjoyable fare. Sangeeth Shobhan couldn't have asked for a better showcase of his potential at the early stages of his career, while Naresh and Tulasi are exemplary in well-written parts. The show, created by Manasa Sharma and Mahesh Uppala (also the director) is sensible, funny and turns out to be an unlikely tear-jerker towards the end. Make time for this family and their story, you won't be disappointed!