Rajkummar Rao shines amidst a lacklustre narrative in the Netflix series created by Raj and DK.
In Guns & Gulaabs, Rajkummar Rao plays a mechanic seeking to escape the shadow of his late mafia father while also wooing the woman of his dreams. In addition, Adarsh Gourav plays the role of a resentful cartel heir who finds himself stuck in a life he doesn't know what to do with while trying to lead a group of thugs that don't take him seriously. The series also tells the narrative of an upstanding police officer (Dulquer Salmaan) who becomes an instrument of disorder. It's also the tale of two teenagers going through firsts in love, friendship, and betrayal.
There's always a charm when a movie or a show recreates an era that has been so iconic. The pre-Internet era brings back the nostalgia of living a full life with many limitations, which didn't feel like many back then. Watching a show set in the 1990s definitely takes you down memory lane. However, Guns & Gulaabs is a show that reminds you of the bad trip for which you were most excited.
Raj and DK have been having a great run on OTT, starting with The Family Man and continuing with Farzi (both on Prime Video). But the moment they entered Netflix, the excitement doubled thanks to the era in which Guns & Gulaabs is set and the delectable cast, which includes Rajkummar Rao, Dulquer Salmaan, Gulshan Devaiah, and Adarsh Gourav.
The seven-episode-long series (read: looonnnggg) gets to a conclusion that is like a film. Yes, there's an interval block in the final episode, which has 7+8 mentioned in the title. Well, only that could have been Guns & Gulaabs. No, not because it's the best episode—well, it's not—but because it just could have been a film.
I was so disappointed by the end of the series, mainly because you don't expect worse from Raj and DK, let alone bad. Secondly, what are these characters, and why are they doing what they are doing?
There's a dialogue in the series, "Kehte Hai Har Insaan Ke Andar Ek Shaitaan Hota Hai. Aur Kasam Paida Karnevale Ki, Woh Shaitaan Ko Andar Hi Rehna Chahiye," which makes for the crux of Guns & Gulaabs.
But the execution is where the series entirely falters, starting with the jarring screenplay by Raj and DK. To get a basic storyline, the series begins with the 4-cut Atmaram (Gulshan Devaiah) killing Tipu's (Rajkummar Rao) father, who was the henchman of Ganchi (Satish Kaushik). Tipu is a mechanic and lover who is head over heels for Chandralekha (TJ Bhanu) and has no remorse for seeing his father dead. On the other hand, Arjun Verma (Dulquer Salmaan) gets posted in Gulaabganj to wipe out the illegal opium business that's causing happiness within the small town. Meanwhile, Ganchi's son Jugnu (Adarsh Gourav) is in the shadow of his father but tries to hold his mettle time and again.
Yes, that's interesting, which also drew me into the series in the first three episodes. However, as the show passes, the purpose of the story gets lost just like that. Although there's a hint as to how the story will conclude with all four men crossing paths, one of them is a gangster, another is a serial killer, another becomes a killer and gangster as he kills two people with a spanner, and the last one is a cop who is on a hunt.
But the narrative just takes a backseat while the story keeps on building slowly and gradually. But these are also left with loose ends and a not-satisfying conclusion. The dialogues by Sumit Arora are funny and cliched, but they're also a constant reminder of the origin of a villain story or that the story is set in the 1990s. The landscapes are good enough to make it believable. Even so, when the gangsters are given the tropes of usual dialogue with punches and puns, the other characters are just left with straight-face lines, which go off-balance at several intervals.
Talking about the performances of amazing actors who are part of the series. They are just perfect casting stuck up in bad storytelling. Starting with Rajkummar Rao, the actor is incredible and is actually the shining star of Guns & Gulaabs. His performance will remind you of that of Bareilly Ki Barfi and Ludo, but that's mainly because of the character given to him.
There are so many absurd moments that are laughable. In one of the scenes, Arjun (Dulquer) and Tipu (Rajkummar) discuss something on the phone, and the former asks him, "Aur baaki?" To which Tipu replies, "Aur baaki sab badhiya." It's something you can expect from him, and yet it makes you laugh instantly. These moments make Rajkummar's Tipu a lovable character in the series, but that's also filled with limitations.
It's not new for Dulquer to play a serious character, and maybe that's why he was roped in to play Arjun Verma. His character starts off with sweet quirks like being a family man and also a lover of retro Hindi music. All these are brushed off instantly, and a new character comes in all together in the fourth episode. However, the circumstances are such that a person cannot make a drastic change, and he is meshed down to be this boring cop who is stuck in some sort of loop.
I was in search of Gulshan Devaiah as Atmaram in the first half of the series. The show starts with him, and you expect him to be around constantly. However, the mystery about his character continues halfway through the show, and the revelation is totally one-dimensional. Having been shown as a fan of Sanjay Dutt and also having a similar haircut, the character doesn't grow totally, and by the time the end comes with him being in the frame, a loss of interest comes into being. Moreover, his character will remind you of Pankaj Tripathi from Ludo, and your constant question will be, "How is this man not doing?"
The weakest in the series is Adarsh Gourav as Jugnu, and it's quite upsetting to see such potential get wasted. The character could have gotten meatier if its conclusion had been shown sometime earlier in the series, just to get better. Credit where credit is due, giving him dialogue about how his father wanted a boy to take over, and if it was a girl, Nabeed (Nilesh Divekar), his adopted son would become his heir. To which Jugnu asks, Why can't girls rule? There's a root given to that scene, and the conclusion makes it worse in the finale.
The female actors in the series are totally wasted, be it TJ Bhanu, Shreya Dhanwanthary, or Pooja A. Gor. None of the characters bring anything great to the table. TJ Bhanu does get a chance to shine, but she is just brought in to show up as a love interest in an unwanted love triangle.
Raj and DK's storytelling has a separate fan base, and I am a member too. But Guns & Gulaabs, being their weakest work, could also be given the benefit of the doubt; however, it's a huge loss of opportunity to make something bizarre and continue their streak with it.
Guns & Gulaabs made me feel cheated at some level with the start, which is quite interesting, and the story going all over the place and creating boredom at once.