There aren’t many shows in the OTT space that romanticise middle-class jugglery the way Sony Liv’s Gullak does. The Mishras find happiness and conflict in the little things, rarely unpeeling layers of the socio-political oppression that makes living, adjacent to the bottom line, so difficult in this country. Gullak has found a way of somewhat fetishising the lack of privilege and it says something about its episode length anecdotal inquiries into middle-class shenanigans that it manages to somehow still keep cynicism at bay. It’s as if an Indian soap has acquired the indie sensibility of something more realistic and can therefore find a way to mix both. In its third season though Gullak is more languid, evidently struggling to fit new slices from small-town life into episodic circular narratives it has come to be known for. It’s the third season syndrome maybe that the show about convenient, eccentric escape routes feels a bit tiresome and pushed to the brink of having to reluctantly grow up and exit the loop of convenience.
The second episode of the third season focuses on LTA (Leave Travel Allowance), the famed lottery that most working-class families know of but seldom experience. Another episode in this new season is about an arranged marriage that has to be aborted after Mummy Mishra, hesitantly, sounds the alarm on an ill-conceived partnership (after she reads the girl’s mind of course). There will of course be a marriage, a merger of interests rather than desires, but the illusion of withdrawal is what the show has come to master. It offers moments as revelatory life-altering devices rather than the missteps that they would otherwise serve as in reality.
This season ends with a sobering hurdle that has the Mishra family clutching at straws and clinging to the sheets in both horror and revulsion; the first time the show throws the sink at the Mishra family in what is also its first real encounter with the world, as a force. A force we have so far candidly by-passed for the sake of the family’s innocence. It’s impossible though, in real life, to nurture conflict without addressing it.