Director: Palash Vaswani
Cast: Geetanjali Kulkarni, Vaibhav Raj Gupta, Harsh Mayar
Rating: 3 stars
If we are what we eat, the Mishras, the family at the centre of Gullak, are dhania chutney. Their life is constantly on a grinding stone but the aroma of coriander clings to them – and to the tangy TVF-produced serio-comic web series that tracks their psychological peccadilloes and domestic bust-ups.
Thanks to Shanti Mishra (played by an outstanding Geetanjali Kulkarni), mother of two grown-up boys, putting her foot down and telling her sheepish husband Santosh (Jameel Khan, terrific again) that she is done with over-exerting her knees and arms, the silbatta is replaced by a juicer-mixer-grinder somewhere along the way. But that does not deliver the Mishras, who live in an unspecified small town in northern India, from their daily troubles.
Yet, they never tire of talking – or making – food. Nor do they take much time to have the audience eating out of the palms of their hands. It is easy to fall in love with them, warts and all, because of their sheer ordinariness and authenticity.
They have serious issues to deal with – the elder son Annu (Vaibhav Raj Gupta), who came a cropper at the end of Season 1, is jobless and the underconfident younger boy Aman (Harsh Mayar) is preparing for his board exams – but the parents ensure that they never compromise with what constitutes their repasts.
The five episodes of Gullak Season 2, pretty much like their 2019 precursors, celebrate the magic of small change. The piggybank – yes, the all-seeing, all-knowing gullak is the narrator – overflows with wit and humour as it tracks the highs and lows of the Mishra family.
The gullak (the voice belongs to Shivankit Singh Parihar) provides a running commentary studded with wisecracks and witticisms that include a wild variation (in the context of sibling bonding/rivalry) on Jawaharlal Nehru’s tryst with destiny speech. “Agar na samajh aaya ho mat keh dena ke iske liye bhi Nehru zimmedaar hai (If you haven’t understood, don’t say Nehru is to blame),” the voice tells us.
“Chanchal mann very, very random,” the gullak says of Aman Mishra’s restless, nervous mind. Very, very random indeed is the lively, free-flowing narration make Gullak 2, which premieres on SonyLiv on January 15, great entertainment.
The episodic narrative lends the show dynamism and flexibility. The relationships among the four Mishras hinge on relentless negotiations – between husband and wife, between father and sons, and, of course, between mother and sons – with the tonal variations stemming from their individual attributes.
The wife/mother is Shanti. She isn’t, however, an embodiment of peace. The voluble lady holds the family together with a firm hand. The unpaid full-time job takes its toll. The father, a bijli board clerk, struggles to get a word in edgewise. When he does, he scores a brownie point or two and adds to the mirth.
Wit and humour never desert Gullak 2 even when Shanti, who has good reason to be peeved with the way her husband and sons conduct themselves, gives vent to her simmering anger. The banter between the bickering brothers constitutes the other important strand of the show.
Annu asserts his right to be respected – he is older after all. Aman plays along, but does not lose an opportunity to let the world know how he feels about the bossing that the elder one does.
Annu falls back on religion and politics – the twin refuge of the unemployed. When he isn’t in the local temple helping out the priest with the daily chores, he is putting in the hard yards to attract the attention of a local politician. It isn’t surprising that the priest and the politician have a connection. Annu knows that as well as anyone else.
For a kitty party at home, Papa Mishra and the boys decide to give Shanti a well-deserved break by assuming charge of the kitchen. The men aren’t even sure if salt has to be added to dahi vada. But they keep bumbling along and manage to avoid a full-blown disaster.
Episode 1 opens with Shanti fretting over the kheer that is going to miraculously change the Mishras’ fortunes. The fifth and final chapter has Santosh rustling up a meat dish despite the absence of garam masala. “Har ghar ka kirana kehta hai ke ghar mein kaun rehta hai,” the voiceover tells us. Quite so. Sugar is the first to be ticked off the shopping list when Shanti is diagnosed with diabetes.
Bournvita is a key item on the list because Aman needs a healthy mind and body. Chirping crickets keep the boy company when he studies – he stops when the crickets stop. On one occasion, he sneaks out of the house to catch a live cricket match at the local politician’s home – a misadventure that ends badly for him. But the success of the event is a feather in Annu Mishra’s cap.
The town is small but the egos are big. When a wedding invitation comes along without the mandatory sa-parivar (& family) suffixed to Santosh Mishra’s name on the envelope, all hell breaks loose. Acrimony of the past surfaces and Shanti and Annu try their best not to let the misunderstanding get in the way of the family and the the trip.
Gullak 2 retains the bittersweet spirit of the first season. The actors are once again in stellar form. Geetanjali Kulkarni and Jameel Khan are fabulous. Vaibhav Raj Gupta is clearly an actor who deserves a bigger break. Harsh Mayar is endearing as the younger brother. Sunita Rajwar in the role of the garrulous Bittu ki Maa is a scream.
The dividend that this wrapped-in-warmth gullak yields is anything but small. It isn’t without reason that the small town the show is set in isn’t identified. The Mishras are like all ordinary that wrestle with ordinary problems in mofussil anonymity. Gullak 2 delivers a take on life that rides on familiarity, lively writing and superlative acting.