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Gullak 4 Review: The Series Retains The Edge Despite A Few Stray Passages

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Small change may not have much currency these days but a piggybank still counts in large swathes of India. It definitely does for the small-town household in which Gullak, a mellow, bittersweet family drama now in its fourth season, plays out.

The five new episodes of the TVF-produced Sony LIV show drives home, with a delightfully light touch, the pitfalls of parental expectations and the complexities of adulting in an era in which relationships are often akin to a tightrope walk across a pit of burning coal.

Gullak 4, as warm and fuzzy as the series has always been, celebrates the reassuring embrace of family ties that sustain themselves despite altercations and arguments. The Mishras banter and bicker. They fly off the handle, have raging fights and debates and come close to falling apart. Yet, they find ways to sink their differences and move on.

Created and directed by Shreyansh Pandey and written by Vidit Tripathi, Gullak 4 isn’t exactly overflowing with shiny coins but it continues to yield dividends. The writing is steady and the quality of the acting not only draws sustenance from the script but also enhances it as it adds layers to the exercise.

The principal actors, as they did in the previous three seasons, bring a refreshing air of naturalness to bear upon their performances. More than anything else, what stands out is their sheer consistency as they make their way through a slew of contrasting emotions and situations across the five episodes.

At the heart of it all is of course the wise, all-knowing gullak (that speaks in the voice of Shivankit Singh Parihar). From the perch that it shares with another relic of a bygone era, a bulky transistor, it observes the four family members going about their chores and often working at cross-purposes.

The inanimate sutradhar weighs in at important junctures on the idiosyncrasies of middle-class existence. Its sharply insightful pronouncements – they range from the tongue-in-cheek to the strikingly sagacious – almost always land and provide a larger humorous context for what is going in.

This storytelling format still works fine notwithstanding the fact that the novelty of it may have inevitably worn off a bit. The gullak’s summations have an overarching, oracular ring to them, which provides a contrast to the consistently conversational tone of the verbal exchanges between the human characters.

It is the familiarity of the people on the screen and the relatability of their demeanour that give Gullak its edge. Gullak 4 retains that edge despite a few stray passages that have to deal with the law of diminishing returns. All said and done, the payoffs are still quite substantial.

The show is about individuals grappling with issues in the real world: shared responsibilities within a family, finding space for two adult boys forced to share a room, the navigation of the process of growing up and the pangs of love, and pressures of meeting targets at the workplace.

Good-humoured raillery, minor tiffs, a few flare-ups, some serious misunderstandings and, of course, threats from of the world outside keep the Mishras – Santosh (Jameel Khan) and Shanti (Geetanjali Kulkarni) and their sons Anand (Vaibhav Raj Gupta) and Aman (Harsh Mayar) – on their toes.

In one episode, the municipality serves the Mishras a show cause notice. The prospect of a bulldozer demolishing parts of the house looms large. The crisis sparks a discussion on the ethics and dynamics of bribing a government official – speed money is euphemistically described as a suvidha shulk – in order to ward off the threat. But can Santosh Mishra pull off the act with a straight face?

In another episode, Shanti falls prey to a chain-snatcher on her way back from a temple. She is traumatised. The Mishras troop to the police station to lodge a complaint. A brush with the police, as the gullak points out, can be a life-altering event for an ordinary small-town family. Shanti comes out of it in one piece but not quite in the way that her husband and two sons would have expected.

A decision to discard household junk collected over many years triggers discord among the Mishras. Aman is desperate to strike a deal on the side with the raddiwala but his plans are fraught with risk.

Outside the home, Aman falls for a girl he meets in a coffee shop and Anand, as a medical representative trying to find his feet in a challenging profession, struggles in his dealings with his immediate boss, a petulant man at the best of times.

Anand and Aman have their share of fraternal altercations but when things threaten to spiral out of control, big brother steps in and talks the younger lad out of an ill-advised rebellion against the head of the Mishra family.

Without being particularly spectacular or brimming with surprises, Gullak 4 is fun. Parts of the show turn a tad melodramatic, but no matter what the Mishras are up to, the tone of the storytelling never goes awry.

Geetanjali Kulkarni and Jameel Khan, with performances of the first order, keep us invested in the daily grind that Shanti and Santosh Mishra are accustomed to. Harsh Mayar, Vaibhav Raj Gupta and Sunita Rajwar (as the nosey Bittu ki Mummy who barges in at the most inopportune of times) are always on the ball.

Held together by the writing – it chooses to err on the side of the lowkey – and bolstered by the flawless performances, the five episodes of Gullak 4 put the dreams, dilemmas and detours of the Mishras under the spotlight once again.

In delivering another set of truisms about lives in the shadows of small-town anonymity, Gullak 4 gets most of it right.

 Gullak 4 Review: Geetanjali Kulkarni and Jameel Khan, with performances of the first order, keep us invested in the daily grind that Shanti and Santosh Mishra are accustomed to. Harsh Mayar, Vaibhav Raj Gupta are always on the ball.    

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