These days content creators are playing with formats almost at will. They are obliged to do so because of the compulsions imposed on them because of the ongoing pandemic—with the cinemas being closed indefinitely—and the ever growing popularity of the OTT platforms. The latest title to have undergone a major format rejig is the veteran lyricist Amitabh Varma’s dramedy titled ‘Teen Do Paanch’. What was supposed to be his debut film recently released on Disney+Hotstar as a 13-part series with each episode clocking at roughly 10-11 minutes. Teen Do Paanch stars Shreyas Talpade and Bidita Bag in lead roles. The show also stars Akhilendra Mishra, Sheeba Chadda, Brijendra Kala, Lovleen Mishra, Akash Deep Arora and Shantanu Anam. Verma who is best known for his lyrics in hits such as Life In A Metro, Bas Ek Pal, PK, Khoobsurat, Ugli Aur Pagli, etc. has not just directed Teen Do Paanch but has also contributed as a screenwriter, composer and singer.
Teen Do Paanch revolves around a Noida-based couple, Priyanka and Vishal, who have been happily married for more than seven years. They want to have kids but when things don’t work out they opt for the adoption route. However, the kid that they want to adopt turns out to have two more siblings and so they end up adopting the triplets. Of course, neither of them is prepared for the challenge of raising three kids. While Priyanka is determined to rise up to the challenge, Vishal finds it more and more difficult to balance his personal and professional lives. Their lives turn upside down when after a couple of months they come to know that Priyanka is also pregnant. Things go completely haywire when she delivers twins. Now this couple has three plus two i.e. five kids. Hence the title Teen Do Paanch.
Adoption remains an unexplored subject as far as India is concerned. While some mainstream Bollywood films over the years have used it as a convenient narrative trope, it has seldom been touched upon as a central subject for critical examination from various perspectives. Why do parents go for adoption? Is it directly related to their inability to have a biological child? What does it take to adopt a child? What are the challenges associated with adoption? How do things change in case the couple has a biological child later on? Can an adoption be reversed? That’s where Teen Do Paanch stands out. Without getvg preachy, the show succeeds in addressing the above questions and more. It also endeavors to throw spotlight on the society’s outlook towards adoption. Unlike the West, India’s middle class still hasn’t opened up to the concept of adoption. And, perhaps, while the younger couples aren’t averse to it unlike the earlier generations they only want to go for it after they have exhausted all other options, including IVF and surrogacy.
The plot of Teen Do Paanch rests heavily on the performances of Bidita Bag and Shreyas Talpade and both the actors are up to the challenge. Bag succeeds in showcasing her character’s insecurities and dualities really well. Priyanka comes across as a really nice person with a heart of gold who tries hard to keep everything together. But she is also a deeply flawed individual who finds it difficult to control her impulsiveness. She is quick to adopt the triplets but when she gives birth to twins she suddenly is overcome by an urge to get rid of her adopted children. On the other hand, Vishal comes across a very indecisive person. He wants to be a loving husband and a caring father but he is just not up to the task. He keeps vacillating until the last moment perhaps hoping to put the blame of his failures on others around him. But the two of them together are really capable of outing themselves if they can learn to trust each other. The realistic performances by Bag and Talpade make Teen Do Paanch memorable despite its many shortcomings. The other performers back them up well with Akhilendra Mishra and Shantanu Anam deserving a special mention.
There is no denying that Teen Do Paanch would have worked better as a feature film. Watching over a dozen episodes of 10 minutes each can be a little exasperating. Every time one has to click on a button to skip the opening and ending credits. Also, it somehow distances us from the characters and the storyline. Every time the momentum builds up, it quickly fizzles out owing to the episodic format. Also, one is compelled to take more breaks than usual, which further impacts the story’s impetus. The makers certainly would have been better off had they also made Teen Do Paanch available as a feature film on the platform separately. It’s something that Bejoy Nambiar tried with Taish and it worked to its advantage with the viewers having the choice to watch it in the format that they prefer. Those who want to watch it in one go can go for the film version. Those who prefer the episodic style of storytelling can go for the series version of Taish.