The trailer of “Guns and Gulabs,” a gangster comedy starring Rajkumar Rao and Dulquer Salman, starts with a character asking
What is the meaning of this story? I think it’s a valid question to ask the creators of shows like Raj and D.K., the masterminds behind “The Family Man” and “Fargo.” I am in favor of Raj and D.K. having a massive budget, hours of screen time, and such a dynamic cast, but the combination of all these elements doesn’t always sustain consistent enjoyment and uniqueness.
Nostalgic memories of the ’90s:
Raj and D.K. take us back to the ’90s through the fictional hill station of “Gulagang” (akin to Dehradun or Mussoorie) in the trailer of “Guns and Gulabs.” Besides the references like Campa Cola and Pink Mambo, the directors ingeniously bring back memories of the ’90s through a track associated with school kids, surpassing the realm of nostalgic porn.
The show begins with a debate between two boys, who argue while etching their girlfriends’ names onto their arms with compasses, about whose love is deeper. Later, a girl and a boy end up falling in love while cycling next to each other instead of going home.
Amidst the trivial yet thought-provoking classroom politics, snatching badges of the new class topper by the class monitor of the previous class, and writing the names of troublemakers by the class monitor on the blackboard of the new class. Despite these children having as much screen time as other prominent actors, their integration with the main story feels more cohesive and organic.
There’s a cute scene where the class topper is tasked by his well-off friend to write a love letter in English to a Hindi medium mechanic. The process of writing a love letter involves playing English songs on his Walkman and adding his mother’s Pink Mambo perfume onto the letter.
In a sequence reminiscent of infatuation, he writes that Bryan Adams’ song plays in the background, confusing the mechanic and his companion.
Beyond these delightful elements, there isn’t a strong reason to set the story in the ’90s. Are Raj and D.K. trying to evoke something within us beyond nostalgia porn? Unfortunately, no matter how much you shake it, it’s only a noisy silence, like a piggy bank at the end of the month.
Cops and Robbers :
Raj and D.K. infuse “Guns and Gulabs” with peculiar criminals. They connect the dots between the city’s most ruthless gangster Ganchi’s (Satish Kaushik) son Chota Ganchi (Adarsh Gourav) and Tipu (Rajkumar Rao), the son of a mechanic and a loyal yet inevitable member of the underprivileged gang linked with Ganchi. Both carry the burden of their fathers’ deeds.
While Chota struggles to fit into his father’s shoes in a grand way, but remains consistently unsuccessful, Tipu is clear that he doesn’t want to follow in his father’s footsteps, yet in a sudden stroke, ends up killing people.
Once again, this track of carrying forward the father’s legacy remains narrative baggage, always overshadowed by the labyrinthine plotlines, inconsequential flashback scenes, and utterly exhausted sequences.
As the story progresses, all these elements become disjointed and never come together in a satisfying entirety, much like seasoned actors who play their roles in isolation but lack the unity in the main narrative.
Rajkumar Rao is the most amusing of them all. He has the longest monologues and he delivers them with as much justice as possible. In his initial parts, especially when he forgets that his father is dead and while romancing his girlfriend engages in wordplay (“Yes, father is fine… oh, father is dead”).
Adarsh Gourav also possesses a smart touch and an engaging arc, and an impressive transformation. However, the fractured focus due to the intense sequence of boiling emotions within the young actor’s performance results in its fragmentation.
Dulquer Salman, in his role as a police officer, adheres to honesty, but is filled with unnecessary character traits, premonitory grey shades, and a subplot. Infidelity. To be honest, Shreya Dhanwanthary’s treatment of blackmailing Dulquer Salman in an outlandish manner and eventually dropping a truth bomb on him feels like taking revenge, as she did with him in last year’s “Aarya.”
Gulshan Devaiah’s character is the most unique and he ensures entertainment comes with it. That’s it. Female characters aren’t even worth mentioning. Or perhaps, let’s do it because someone should give them their due, if co-writers Raj and D.K. don’t.
Among them, the notable one is Chandrlekha (Teejay Bhanu), a school teacher. It seems she’s agitated by the confessions of heinous crimes and accidental transgressions. It’s an intriguing facet for a school teacher, but unfortunately, Guns and Gulabs doesn’t seem interested in taking it further.
This series bids a decent farewell to the late Satish Kaushik. When his name appears in the credits at the end of the first episode, along with a few crackling lines, a nefarious personality, and even a eulogy. However, his most memorable scene is when the wooden floor beneath him starts creaking and breaking. Say no more.
Raj and D.K. could have taken such actors and turned a show with them into gold. However, after a certain point, they become too generous in any form of depth, coherence, or even color. My suggestion is that when they write their next script, they should use a bit of Pink Mambo and the Bryan Adams song to get back to their rhythm. If it helps, absolutely.
“Guns and Gulabs” is currently streaming on Netflix India.