June 10, 2022
by Carla Hay
Directed by Vipul Mehta
Gujarti with subtitles
Culture Representation: Taking place in Gujarat, India, the comedy/drama film “Kehvatlal Parivar” features an all-Indian cast of characters representing the working-class and the middle-class.
Culture Clash: A family that owns and operates a dhokla-selling small company deals with unexpected problems relating to the business and their personal lives.
Culture Audience: “Kehvatlal Parivar” will appeal primarily to people who like watching family movies that have an appealing blend of amusing comedy and heartfelt drama.
“Kehvatlal Parivar” adeptly balances lightweight comedy with some heavy drama in this appealing story about a family that’s in the business of selling dhoklas. The movie has some unexpected twists and turns that make it better than the average family dramedy. In addition, the movie’s cast members all give engaging performances that shine the most when the family confronts painful secrets from the past. And people who like dhoklas will have a visual feast in this movie’s creative display of a variety of this delectable-looking food.
Written and directed by Vipul Mehta, “Kehvatlal Parivar” (which translates to “Kehvatlal Family” in English) starts of looking like yet another screwball comedy about a family members who often disagree with each other. However, the movie goes through a very different transition when the family dynamics are changed by someone who is a long-lost relative. What begins as a family bickering over how to run the dhokla business turns into a more meaningful story about forgiveness and redemption.
“Kehvatlal Parivar” centers on a family led by Raju Bhai Thakar (played by Siddharth Randeria), who started the dhokla business but is struggling to make the business grow. He sells dhoklas from a food cart on the street, but he wants the business to expand so that he can sell his dhoklas to retail stores. Raju’s bachelorette sister Bhadra (played by Vandana Pathak) lives with Raju, but she’s not much help with the business, because she likes to spend a lot of her time on the Internet.
Raju is a single parent to two adult children in their 20s: son Himesh (played by Bhavya Gandhi) and daughter Heta (played by Shraddha Dangar), who both have very different views of the family business. Heta is an obedient child who wants to help the expand the business and improve its profits. Himesh is a rebellious troublemaker (an early scene shows Raju having to bail Himesh out of jail) who’s reluctant to get involved in the family business.
Bhadra says she married, but that her husband lives far away. She has no biological children of her own, but Bhadra has helped raise Heta, Himesh and a flamboyant man in his 20s named Sam (played by Neel Gagdani), who is the son of a widower friend of Bhadra’s. Sam and Bhadra adore each other very much. Sam thinks of Bhadra as being like a mother to him. And therefore, Sam is treated like a member of the Mehta family.
Raju’s biggest competition as a food cart vendor is his cousin Shamu (played by Sanjay Goradia), who also operates a food cart that sells dhoklas. They often sell on the same street, which makes their rivalry more intense. Raju has an employee named Natu (played by Aakash Zala) to help him with the food cart sales. At the moment, Shamu has been doing better business than Raju, who is jealous. Raju’s sales have gone down, while Shamu’s sales have gone up.
Shamu likes to brag that his dhoklas are better than the dhoklas that Raju is selling. Shamu is often joined in his bragging by Shamu’s wife Falguni (played by Meghana Solanki), who works alongside Shamu in selling dhoklas from their food cart. Shamu has been more successful than Raju at business marketing, since Shamu has flashier cart signs and is generally better at getting attention for his services.
Adding to Raju’s business troubles, he is pressured to pay off corrupt cops who demand money to secure “police protection” for his food cart. In one disturbing scene, Raju gets beaten up by cops because Raju didn’t pay this extortion money. The corrupt cops then damage Raju’s food cart.
Raju has some other concerns besides his dhokla business. He’s worried that his unmarried children won’t get married. Raju promises Heta that he will find her a husband, but she tells her father that she would rather have marriage based on love, not an arranged marriage. Himesh tells his father that he will eventually get married, but he never wants to be involved in Raju’s dhokla-selling business.
Raju has been telling people that he’s been a widower for 23 years. But a family secret is about to be revealed when a woman named Kalandi “Laju” Thakar (played by Supriya Pathak) shows up unexpectedly at the family home. Kalandi, who has been living in the United States for the past several years, announces that she’s Raju’s long-lost wife and the mother of Heta and Himesh. This announcement throws the family into disarray when Kalandi offers to help with the family business while she’s visiting from the U.S.
Why did Raju tell people he was a widower? And why was Kalandi living in the United States for all those years without being in contact with her husband and children? Those answers are eventually revealed in the movie.
Raju has to deal with a lot of bitterness and resentment that his estranged wife has come back into his life, while Heta and Himesh have mixed emotions about this tension-filled family reunion. Himesh and Heta were very young when Kalandi left them, so they don’t know their mother at all.
A lot of the movie is about Kalandi trying to win back the trust of the family that she abandoned. She comes up with a lot of good ideas to expand the family’s dhokla business, but Raju is old-fashioned, stubborn, and thinks he’s the one who should have the best ideas. He’s resistant to a lot of change, such as when Heta suggests that Raju promote the business on social media. Not only does Raju resist the idea of being on social media, he also doesn’t have an email address.
“Kehvatlal Parivar” doesn’t sugarcoat the raw feelings that happen when an estranged family member wants a reconciliation, but other members of the family have different feelings about being willing to forgive. Kalandi is now a U.S. citizen who started a new life in the United States. And that leads to another secret being revealed. This secret isn’t too surprising at all.
At any rate, Kalandi has to decide if she is going to go back to the United States and continue to lead the life she’s had there, or if she will try to start over with the family she left behind in India. Whatever her decision is, she has a visitor visa in India, so there’s only a limited time that she can legally spend in India. In the midst of all this family drama, “Kehvatlal Parivar” has some fun scenes in showing how Raju’s dhokla business starts to grow through family teamwork.
“Kehvatlal Parivar” could have been a messy failure in trying to mix the comedy and drama in this story. However, writer/director Mehta keeps the movie flowing on an even keel, so that the switch in tones is seamless and organic, not forced and awkward. The movie’s musical scenes are a delight to watch.
“Kehvatlal Parivar” isn’t perfect, because some of the film’s sentimental moments can be very mushy. And the characters of Shamu and Natu come close to being shrieking caricatures, although these two gloating spouses become more tolerable toward the end of the movie. Overall, “Kehvatlal Parivar” is a very entertaining option for anyone looking for a family movie with some life lessons about love.
Coconut Motion Pictures released “Kehvatlal Parivar” in India on May 6, 2022, in select U.S. cinemas on May 13, 2022, and in Australia on May 19, 2022.