Pet Puraan review: ‘Kids or pets' is a story that tries too hard to become a Bible of pet parenting, and stumbles

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Saie Tamhankar and Lalit Prabhakar in ‘Pet Puraan’. (Image: Screen grab/Disney+Hotstar)

No matter how much cricket is on, no matter how many big screen blockbusters about big, burly, bearded men are playing at a multiplex near us, we will always have time to go ‘awww’ over cat and puppy videos. So Pet Puraan seemed like a show whose time had come.

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The Marathi show released simultaneously in Hindi, Malayalam, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Bengali.

The question at the heart of the show – should we have kids or should we have a pet – is a universal question. Especially because family members across the subcontinent will ask young couples: Good news?

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This expectation of families comes sharply into focus when a working couple Aditi and Atul have to attend a baby shower knowing that their life choices will be questioned by everyone because Aditi’s younger sister ‘stole a march’ on her older sibling. Baby showers are a huge shindig in our country, and even though an expectant mother is dressed up and celebrated (read food, fancy clothes, religious ceremonies), Aditi and Atul know that it’s just another excuse for gossipy aunts (and uncles) to ask: Good news? The gossip circle will offer unsolicited mostly non-medical advice, not caring to ask why the two do not want to have kids.

Their reasoning seems to be very flimsy: they cannot afford to have children. With a family support system in place in India (grandparents show up and take care of the babies), and the poorest of the poor having kids, an urban couple who have enough money to live in an apartment with a balcony (a luxury in Bombay) the fact that Aditi sees children everywhere in her apartment (would have been a scarier scene had they all demanded food like mindless zombies!) and is scared of the commitment to bring a life into the world would have been a better excuse. Their friend Parag has a super naughty kid and Parag’s wife has better reasoning that could shock any DINK couple into justifying why they should not have kids.

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In the same vein, when you meet Aditi and Atul’s friend who believes his grandmother’s soul is in his cat and has named her Godakka, you’ll not want to have pets either. Why show pet owners as weird? Isn’t the show trying to encourage people to be kind to animals and adopt rather than buy? But if the pet whisperer is outlandish, or downright creepy, then it puts you off from the idea of adopting a pet who may have ‘past trauma’ as the lady from the adoption agency says…

I was hoping for the big ‘aww’ moments in the show. After all, there is a puppy and a kitten in one household. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to predict that the puppy and kitten will snuggle up together after having hissed at one another all day. You can see that moment arrive from a mile away though, and it’s cute nonetheless. Even Parag’s rambunctious child – playing with the child will tire the child, is a fact any parent who has taken the child to a beach knows. But at least marks for putting that into the screenplay.

Saie Tamhankar and Lalit Prabhakar who play Aditi and Atul, the new pet parents, do the right things for the characters, but somehow the script seems to require a younger couple. Atul making faces at the cat who scratched him, or Aditi blurting out that they just had sex before coming to the family event must have been scripted for a younger couple. Or perhaps they should have been shown differently. Atul and Aditi could have exchanged a glance or held hands or something when their compatibility is being questioned at the event, perhaps Atul could have used a long handled broom to push the food bowl towards the hissing cat… Something!

The show tries to cram too many things into it: housing society rules, illegal pet shops, pet trainers, pet hating neighbours, neighbourhood bullies, stupid cops, managing pet adoption agencies, crooked dog breeders, strange dog rescue crew, domestic helpers who don’t like pets, sibling rivalry…

But the shining stars of the show are the two mothers who show up to examine why the two aren’t ‘reproducing’, discover Atul and Aditi have adopted pets and then end up forming a bond with the four legged ones. I did wonder where the two mothers vanished at night, but then details like that seem to be overlooked in the show.

In the recent film Badhai Do, a suspicious mother backed by the family shows up to check on the young couple’s ‘compatibility’. That sequence is more empathetic and funnier when compared to the pet-christening ceremony shown in this show.

Every self-respecting Marathi person will convince you that they have read everything by PuLa – the nickname for one of the funniest writers of the Marathi language: P.L. Deshpande (they would have watched a YouTube video, if they had pride) – and thankfully the writers refer to his funniest bits about pets and pet owners. I wish they had mentioned how PuLa laughed at Indian pet parents who gave their pets non-Indian names (like Shakespeare instead of Moti!) and baby-talked with them in an untranslatable combination of Marathi and English (‘Tu kini very bad bad dog hunh!’)… I wonder if that’s why Aditi and Atul call their pets Vyankatesh and Bakula. Why did a modern couple choose such ancient names? Are the names supposed to be funny? How well these jokes translate into other languages is a question viewers will have to answer.

I like how OTT platforms are experimenting with language content but this show is more of a stumble than smooth sailing. While Hollywood makes Secret Life Of Pets (so adorable! Now you can watch on Netflix), Marley and Me (with a puppy playing cupid to Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson) and the latest film simply called Dog (where Channing Tatum travels with his fallen war hero’s pup). These two films are on Amazon Prime Video. Even the Netflix show ‘Don’t F*** With Cats’ will make you want to become a cat parent. Why do our shows remind us of every pet parent (we know in real life) who insists on showing pictures of their pet, saying, ‘See, here he’s demanding cake!’ or ‘Here he wants to go for walkies!’. And when we look at the pictures, the pet seems to have the same expression in every picture…

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