Celebrating a crime spree: Anupama Chopra on Raj & DK’s streaming series
Guns and Gulaabs gives us more of the directors’ deliciously quirky characters. Here are the best ones to look out for, in this and their last two series.
This month, the third series directed by Raj Nidimoru and Krishna DK arrived on our screens: Guns and Gulaabs on Netflix. (The title is a reference to the band Guns N’ Roses, a favourite with the directors in their youth).
Raj & DK previously directed two seasons of The Family Man and one season of Farzi, both for Amazon Prime.
Guns and Gulaabs has polarised the audience. Some love the delicious wickedness of the show; others feel it is too much adrift. I’m somewhere in the middle but I would argue that streaming in India has been redefined by the Raj & DK brand. By their flair for deadpan, absurdist humour, and their ability to create distinct worlds.
Guns and Gulaabs, for instance, is set in the fictional town of Gulaabganj, which seems to be populated entirely by low-life eccentrics with names such as Chaar-Cut Atmaram (Gulshan Devaiah) and Paanadhari Tipu (Rajkummar Rao), both of whom are murderers. Chaar-Cut is a contract killer who disposes of his victims in exactly four slashes. Paanadhari got the moniker because he killed two people with a panna or spanner.
Raj & DK have an unerring talent for creating memorable characters like these. Here are a few of my favourites from their oeuvre.
Srikant Tiwari: “The James Bond of Chembur” is how they describe the lead character of The Family Man (2019-). Tiwari is a man juggling mundane domestic issues while trying to save the country from dastardly terrorists. He is a consummate liar and a neglectful husband, but a great spy. In one superbly funny scene, he is in a car with his young son, who has picked yet another musical instrument, and insists on playing it with passion (and very little talent), and Tiwari must now find it in himself to pretend to be appreciative.
It helps, of course, that the character is played by the brilliant Manoj Bajpayee, who strikes just the right notes of courage, exasperation and exhaustion.
Michael Vedanayagam: The senior task force officer in Farzi (2023-) is hot on the trail of a counterfeit-currency ring. He’s an expert at what he does. But his personal life is a mess. He is in the midst of a divorce and leaning a bit too heavily on alcohol. Vijay Sethupathi’s minimalist, stylised performance imbued Michael with charisma. His hilarious exchanges with minister Pawan Gahlot (played superbly by Zakir Hussain) were a highlight. In one scene, Vedanayagam is trying to explain to the minister why he shouldn’t hold a particular press conference. The notes they’ve seized aren’t the right ones, he says. “Yeh asli nakli nahi hain, nakli nakli hai!” the exasperated minister responds. It’s irresistible.
Kamarcut: An assistant mechanic, Kamarcut is a minor player in the violence-riddled landscape of Gulaabganj. Scrawny, sweet, with protruding teeth, he is played with exactly the right touch of endearing charm and haplessness by Nand Lal. If there is a Season 2, I hope we see more of him in it.
Chellam Sir: Uday Mahesh had barely 15 minutes of screen time through Season 2 of The Family Man and yet the mysterious Chellam Sir, who says early on, “I’m a retired old man. What help can I offer?”, became a household name. The all-knowing senior who helps save the world is my kind of superhero.