When Gullak started broadcasting on SonyLiv about three years ago, the show was like a warm kiss. Part of the 90s nostalgia and part of the beauty of the middle class, was very different from much that was found in the foundations of Indian broadcasting. But as any creator can tell you, making a good show is hard but keeping it solid. And that’s where Gullak succeeds. In its third season, the show hosted a few Indian games – on OTT or TV – which it had previously. It gets better.
It is not as if there have never been good shows on Indian OTT platforms before. There was plenty. But with the exception of a few selections, many have seen their level decline after the first season (look at you Sacred Games). Perhaps what works for Gullak is that each season has only five episodes. That allows runners to keep the story clean and fresh. Their mantra seems to be: let viewers crave more.
Gullak tells the story of the Mishra family, a middle-class family in an undisclosed North India town. Sometimes it feels like it was set in the 90s but the indications of the ban on PubG and 21st century films bring you back to the status quo. The main characters – Jameel Khan, Geetanjali Kulkarni, Vaibhav Raj Gupta, and Harsh Mayar – give us a glimpse of this typical family with common problems. Their problems are not surprising. They range from unexpected visitors to noisy neighbors and office politics – typical Indian middle class.
The Gullak connection makes it an excellent show. Since the third season involves more drama than the previous two, it never goes overboard or happy. The Mishra family can be anyone – you, your neighbors, or your beloved Kanpur uncle. Common but very straightforward.
The chemistry of the characters is one of the strongest features of the show, as does their drama. How easily Jameel, Geetanjali, Vaibhav, and Harsh fit into the Mishra family and their intricate relationship made the series a delightful clock. The characters are inspired by the game, as usual. But the strongest performance, for me, in this case comes without the main characters. It was an amazing package called Ketaki Kulkarni, shining like Furteeli, a twenty-something woman trying to find herself.
The works of the characters, flawless, are promoted in writing. The episodes are written as simple as possible, with no captions, laughter tracks, or status jokes that have become the backbone of Indian sitcoms. The show has no love, at least in the traditional sense. There is no violence, except for a flying priest or two. And there is a little drama. However, it captures the interest of the audience and is a happy clock.
The only complaint about Gullak’s third season that I have is that he is getting bigger and darker in this regard. The issues to be addressed are much more serious than in the past two seasons. The poles, at times, appear high. The show is not as simple as it once was. Is it a metaphor for how the second wave of Covid-19 made everything ‘so easy’ or am I learning so much from it? However, the show is very serious, especially for the last time of the season. But it is well done. Even when confronted with serious issues, they do not get preaching or judging. It keeps that new.
Gullak is equivalent to what I call the Doordarshan template. It takes you back to successful DD shows like Nukkad, Ye Jo Hai Zindagi, and Wagle Ki Duniya, which were similar in tone and theme. The success and longevity of Gullak (OTT shows that it is not easy to come back three seasons) is a testament to the fact that even in this Netflix-MCU era, the Doordharshan template works if followed correctly.
Gullak was created by Shreyansh Pandey of SonyLIV under the banner of The Viral Fever. The third season will be shown for the first time on the broadcast program from April 7th.
Creator: Shreyansh Pandey
Cast: Jameel Khan, Geetanjali Kulkarni, Vaibhav Raj Gupta, and Harsh Mayar