Guns & Gulaabs

Guns & Gulaabs
Guns & Gulaabs
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Raj and DK’s Guns & Gulaabs is a delightfully madcap crime drama that takes us back to the 90s underworld; it is smartly written, slickly crafted, and brilliantly acted; it brings out the dark and spicy side of men (plus a few women) who love killing, chaos and cruelty.

This dystopian Netflix series plays out in a drug-infested world ruled by opium traders, gun-totting gangsters, a knife-wielding upright killer with seven lives still left in him but whose life is uprooted by his disconcerting past which collides with an anti-narcotics officer (played by Sanjay Kapoor). As wacky as this may sound to you, there are two emotionally crippled men with daddy issues. 

In this amoral world children and adults alike celebrate the line-crossers. This line runs through what was once a village ‘dhaba’ , dividing it into separate spaces where rival criminal gangs came to terms with their territorial disputes.    

A small town called Sherpur lies thirty kilometers from Gulaabgunj where some of the few innocent people live among opium fields while living under control of two criminal groups one of which operates from Sherpur. These criminals fight for shares in illegal opium industry that escapes government approved poppy cultivation.

The first scenes of Guns & Gulaabs show us a poppy farm, two school boys talking about their romantic interests before a car chase ends up being a murder in broad daylight. So right at the start of the series we have all three core ingredients: drugs, love, and violence.

As the plot develops other minor aspects such as competition between two school students for obtaining class topper’s badge come crashing towards an action packed climax “Episode Number 7&8” running for almost one hour and after which taking brief adjournment.

Everyone has ulterior motives here – Gulaabgunj and Sherpur are full of people with sinister plans. These sins change often, as the crooked men run from or pursue their own kind. In a town where small-town noir meets 90s nostalgia, there is intrigue in the air and three decades old Hindi film songs pepper the soundtrack.

The person who was killed in chapter one is Babu Tiger, Gulaabgunj’s trusted henchman to his estranged father (played by Rajkummar Rao), Tipu’s step dad. This shatters Ganchi’s world, and he decides to take revenge. However, Tipu feels relieved that his dad died.

Tipu loses his father but Jugnu (Adarsh Gourav) doesn’t; he is the only son of Ganchi and will eventually become his unwilling successor. The Narcotics Bureau officer Arjun Varma (Dulquer Salmaan) who used to be a Deputy Commissioner of Police when something like a Rs 60 crore scam (Bofors?) was rocked by it, leading him to this place with an assignment – cleaning it up.

One of the Sherpur gang members, Atmaram (Gulshan Devaiah), a professional hit man working for Nabeed (Nilesh Divekar), Ganchi’s boss, is running arterially with a sharp blade. The name Chaar Cut has been appended to his name whenever he goes by it because of his style in killing meaning nobody in Ganchi’s gang should feel safe when Atmaram is out there.

Arjun Verma’s arrival on the crime scene could not have been more timely. For example, Ganchi has just completed a pact with Sukanto (Rajatava Dutta) who represents Calcutta’s drug cartel. He was given one month to produce seven times as much opium as he usually does.

This deal and its fluid dynamics are at the heart of Guns & Roses. Farmers, thugs and buyers alike strive hard so that Gulaabgunj can manufacture enough refined opium for them. Arjun plus his team swing into action to halt this flow.

Various alliances are formed; the relationship between police officer Sarthak and his wife Madhu (Pooja A. Gor) teeters on the edge as an old flame Yamini (Shreya Dhanwanthary) comes back into their lives. And finally life takes over Tipu who falls in love with Lekha (TJ Bhanu ‘Parvati Murty’). He ends up penning down an amorous letter to her which eventually lands him in trouble.

Gulaabgunj seems not to be under the influence of heroin but whiskey that flows freely within Chhota Ganchi’s den. Suddenly becomes dangerous at one point causing crisis dragging a reluctant Jugnu into a mess. It was also reluctance that made Tipu inherit his father’s dodgy empire. Although he had two un-premeditated kills on his tally sheet and did that with a spanner. This act of his made him known as Paana Tipu.

However, Tipu’s father is remembered not only for having left his mother to be with another woman. Baap ajeeb qism ka jantu hota hai (Fathers are strange creatures), he says in one scene. For Jugnu, the clash over inheritance has less to do with hating his father. And growing out of his shadow than it does with earning his old man’s pride. I want to make dad proud, he says.

Guns & Gulaabs weaves together narrative and visual designs rooted in early 1990s, especially the Hindi cinema and music of this decade. The plotline contains numerous sounds, songs and allusions from that time period. The series is a popular-culture–geek’s paradise.

Gangaram, Lalkishan, Chandralekha, Mahendra… Atmaram – these are names reflecting an era before the advent of Rahul and Raj onscreen. A few chapter names are also borrowed from songs/movies of 1980s-90s era – Kasam Paida Karne Wale Ki Do Dil Mil Rahe Hain; Raat Baaki….. Others come from the titles of Bryan Adams’ songs.

In addition to this there is a romantic ballad in Kumar Sanu’s voice which is actually composed by Aman Pant who also creates an incredibly retro background score. For example Satish Kaushik credit was laid out across a calendar page inside several episodes among other things

To add, the movie name of this cult kung-fu film, The 36th Chamber of Shaolin appears in the story when Tipu and his friend Suneel (who is played by Goutam Sharma. And who also acted as one of the two twin brothers of Suneel with another brother, Gourav Sharma) are watching it.

Guns & Gulaabs boasts four amazing appearances by Rajkummar Rao, Dulquer Salmaan, Gulshan Devaiah and Adarsh Gourav. Among the rest of cast members there is also TJ Bhanu who makes a major contribution to this male-oriented show addressing gender and masculinity as they are traditionally seen. Pooja A. Gor and Shreya Dhanwanthary may have less screen time but their impact remains unmissable. Vipin Sharma acts superbly in the role Mahendra a close associate of Ganchi.

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