‘Oka Chinna Family Story’ series review: A coming-of-age dramedy that works in parts

Lacklustre writing hampers this Telugu web series that is held together by good performances

Oka Chinna Family Story, created by Manasa Sharma and Mahesh Uppala and directed by the latter, has a premise that is familiar to those who watch mainstream Telugu films. A wastrel son who is neither good in academics nor has a talent to boast of is chided by his father to mend his ways. His mother remains doting to a fault. The middle class family struggles to make ends meet and the responsibility lies squarely on the father. The story is set in a nondescript neighbourhood in Warangal. With much of the story happening within the home or in the neighbourhood, it all boils down to how good the writing is and how well it gets adapted for the screen. Oka Chinna Family Story – season 1

  • Cast: Sangeeth Shobhan, Tulasi, VK Naresh, Simran Sharma
  • Direction: Mahesh Uppala
  • Streaming on: Zee5

A childhood episode establishes the primary characters. The boy has failed in all his subjects and convinces his mother that ‘F’ stands for ‘fass’ and ‘P’ for ‘pail’. She gleefully agrees and offers to make his favourite dish, pappu chaaru. Thankfully the rest of the comedy is not so banal.

A grown-up Mahesh (Sangeeth Shobhan) has failed to clear B.Tech thrice. His mother Rukmini (Tulasi) continues to make pappu chaaru for him. The father Haridas (Naresh) tries to make the mother and son see reason, in vain. A desolate grandmother (Prameela Rani) looks on, with her world revolving around a television set.

Soon, the father is gone (this isn’t a spoiler, since this aspect is revealed in the trailer) and the mother and son are left to tackle a financial mess. How the two who are not even remotely pragmatic handle the situation seems like a perfect setting for a dark comedy and a coming-of-age story of the son.

Some of the portions are hilarious if you give into suspension of disbelief. Take the sequence where the family receives bills — water, electricity, groceries, et al. ‘I’ll tackle it all just like how I have done all these years’, the mother says and dutifully puts the bills into a red box. Fill it, shut it, forget it. It is tough to buy into the hypothesis. No matter how naive a middle class homemaker is, she would surely be aware that bills need to be paid?

However, once you give into the incredulous atmosphere the series tries to create, there are many laughaloud moments. The speculations and conspiracy theories about the massive loan are hilarious. The family turning towards the maternal uncle (Rajeev Kanakala), as though it is their right to demand financial assistance, also lends itself to fun moments. Yesteryear dialogues and songs also get aptly used to add to the humour.

Eventually, the story moves into the moody drama space when Mahesh is forced to look for a job to repay the mounting loan dues. A rather insipid romance also blooms between Mahesh and the neighbourhood girl Kirthi (Simran Sharma), who appears disinterested for a long time.

Oka Chinna Family Story gets sluggish as it progresses and it feels like a two-hour story stretched into five episodes. The many mentions of pappu chaaru get repetitive and boring. The performances help salvage the drama to an extent. The lanky Sangeeth Shobhan is effortless in the unheroic character and gets the beats right. Tulasi is also understated and her comic timing with Sangeeth work. Naresh, Prameela Rani and get-up Seenu as the bank representative are adequate.

The final episode tries to redeem the series. The more or less predictable story ends with a question mark, leaving scope for season two.

The biggest grouse with the series lies in how it portrays its relationships. Many times I found myself questioning if Mahesh shared any memorable moments at all with his father while growing up. For, all he has for his late father is bitterness. I had a similar query about the bond that the wife shared with her late husband. Did she take the doting mother tendencies too far to not be able to see her husband for what he was? The series does not answer this, just like it doesn’t even pause to show them grieving after the loss.

(Oka Chinna Family Story streams on Zee5)

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