A certain unhurriedness marks Gullak, The Viral Fever’s latest web series that was recently released on the SonyLIV streaming platform.
Directed by Amrit Raj Gupta and written by Nikhil Vijay Motghare, the show is centred on a bickering family in a small town in North India. While this framework has lent itself to several film and web dramas, it’s not guns or gangs in Gullak but gentle humour that is on offer.
Early on in the show, the eponymous narrator, an earthen piggy bank, explains that Gullak is not a story but a series of anecdotes. True to its word, the series unfolds through disparate events in the life of the Mishras. There’s the mother Shanti (Geetanjali Kulkarni), who rarely speaks without yelling and has an unparalleled knack for sarcasm. Her husband Santosh (Jameel Khan) is an unassuming and eternally unruffled employee at the local electricity division.
The older son, Annu (Vaibhav Raj Gupta), is 22 and unemployed, hoping to crack his Staff Selection Commission exams. The schoolgoing Aman (Harsh Mayar) alternates between being his brother’s partner-in-crime and arch-enemy.
The first episode is centred on a debate on whether the house needs renovation. The four walls double up as a metaphor for the family – full of cracks, in need of repair, but with a strong foundation. The Mishras rarely speak to each other with kindness or in low volumes, but their love shines through the daily squabbles and acerbic remarks.
This could be any middle-class Indian family anywhere, the show suggests, and it proves the point by finding its humour and narrative thrust in the everyday. There are no high stakes, no drama and no life-changing events. Instead, the Mishras grapple with noisy washing machines, scraps between siblings, complaints over the dinner menu, snide remarks from neighbours and an alarm that goes off too early on a Sunday.
The moments of harmony too come from the small things – buying ice cream as a treat after dinner, or a prize of Rs 40 given by father to the sons in a moment of generosity.
The charm that comes from watching the ordinary is complemented by pitch-perfect performances, especially by Kulkarni, Khan and Mayar. The humour isn’t laugh-out-loud but consistently and gently pleasing, much of it stemming from the clever writing, especially the metaphor-filled repartee between parent and son or husband and wife.
More than anything, Gullak is an ode to the average Indian mother – someone who uses anger as a strategic tool and words as her weapon, but does most of the heavylifting in keeping the family unit together.
Gullak touches upon weighty issues, including financial difficulties and the fear of unemployment, but glides over them, as if to argue that pain and pleasure are a part of existence and add to the wealth of experience in the piggy bank of life.