The same family, the same actors, the same producer and the same theme music but a different set of creators – this makes all the difference between the two seasons of the SonyLIV series Gullak.
The TVF show’s first season layered its miniaturised portrait of an average middle class family in a generic north Indian city with charm and wit. Directed by Amrit Raj Gupta and beautifully written by Nikhil Vijay Motghare, Gullak mined the profound from the trivial over five crisp but juicy episodes. The 2019 series focused on the minor-major pleasures of family life – the molehills that momentarily loom into mountains; the shared glee over the latest exploit of the overbearing next-door neighbour; the ability to overcome big problems with small displays of love and understanding.
Superbly performed by Geetanjali Kulkarni, Jameel Khan, Vaibhav Raj Gupta and Harsh Mayar and backed up by Sunita Rajawar as the trouble-making neighbour, Gullak set itself up for a sequel, but perhaps it needn’t have. Had the inaugural season added a few more episodes, we might not have been where we are today – back in the same Mishra household but without the smooth balance of laugh-out-loud humour with more subtle mood shifts.
The fresh set of five episodes has been written by Durgesh Singh and directed by Palash Vaswani. Pater familias Santosh (Jameel Khan) has a couple of new hillocks to scale, including an invitation for a family wedding that bruises his ego. Shanti (Geetanjali Kulkarni) is still trying to keep home and hearth in order and continues to communicate through shrieks and death stares. Annu (Vaibhav Raj Gupta), who had failed in his attempt to clear a crucial government exam the last time round, is scurrying about and trying to look important. Aman (Harsh Mayar) is pretending to study hard for his tenth standard exam.
Despite being handed lacklustre material, the actors remain in top form. Sunita Rajawar, as the incorrigible woman next door, gets a bit more play, adding a couple of hapless kids to her conquests.
References to PUBG and HD television sets suggest an attempt to move away from the sort-of-in-the-present but also once-upon-a-time quality of the first edition. There are more tears than laughs as the characters leap over their respective hurdles. The tough love that binds the family together and makes it so irresistible is very much around, but with the ingredient of sentimentality.
The earthen money bank that has inspired the title and has been voiced by Shivankit Singh Parihar seems to be running a bit low. For the first time since we met the Mishras, they appear to be treading water. They have barely changed, but their handlers have.