The Uncle Pradesh Saga


The Uncle Pradesh Saga

Illustration: Juergen Dsouza/ Arré

The story begins in Etawah, a district in Uttar Pradesh and home to the most powerful family in the big bad north of the Indian subcontinent – the Yadavs. Mulayam Singh, played by perpetual patriarch Amitabh Bachchan, is planning to host a festival where he can kick back and relax with his homies and subjects. His son Akhilesh, played by the young, charismatic Ranbir Kapoor, looks after the kingdom under his father’s watchful eye.

Unlike other shows, The Uncle Pradesh Saga will not follow the set pattern of saas-bahu drama. The source of conflict will be entirely new – an evil uncle – never witnessed before in Indian soaps or mythology. In this case, the villain is Mulayam Singh’s brother Shivpal Yadav, played by Shakti “Crime Master Gogo” Kapoor. Akhilesh dislikes uncle Shivpal, who is constantly trying to upstage the young ’un with papa Mulayam’s support.

The first twenty episodes will establish this friction within the family with the help of poor jokes and several reaction shots from as many unnecessary extras we can muster. The first time we see the plot progress is in episode 30, set in 2015, when Shivpal acts on his hatred for his nephew and recommends the sacking of two of Akhilesh’s right-hand men. The scene is intensely dramatic – set in a room full of crying babies, where mothers are doing puja while the fathers silently read the papers.

Akhilesh is obviously not pleased with this development. So the brash young leader decides to protest in the most insidious way, by skipping the inaugural ceremony of the festival that daddy Mulayam has been planning every year since he took over the kingdom, the Saifai Mahotsav.

Mulayam is so angry when he hears the news that he yells, “Naalayak!” and creates a soundwave that ripples across the landscape of Uttar Pradesh. The ripple eventually lands close to Akhilesh who is sitting on a haystack, smoking a chhota Gold Flake. The flustered Akhilesh looks at the cracks in the ground for the next three episodes before finally standing up and realising that he needs to talk to his father.

The story now makes an inexplicable jump and progresses at a slightly faster pace. It takes only five episodes for Mulayam and Akhilesh to meet and formalise a truce. Somewhere in January 2016, Akhilesh caves and is spotted at the Saifai Mahotsav with his father, grooving to some Bhojpuri tracks and spitting paan. This party can go on for the rest of the season.

This seems as good a time as any to end the series. But ₹₹₹ speak louder than common sense, so the story continues for another 80 episodes.

The third season begins with Shivpal sitting in a cave writing bad poetry. He’s been sidelined but like any good villain, is ready for a comeback. He returns to the kingdom on a black horse and meets Mulayam to convince him to form an alliance with the Quami Ekta Dal, a wandering group of politically motivated people led by a man with a criminal background. Mulayam, for whom parampara, sanskriti, and family matter before all else, gives in to his brother’s request and enters into talks with the QED.

Akhilesh first hears the news at a darbar he is hosting, where he gives his subjects free laptops and mobile phones. This situation is compounded by the fact that three of his trusted ministers and his own father have gone against him. Akhilesh is so dismayed that even three reaction shots are not sufficient to convey his sorrow. So, using a simple mathematical formula, we will shoot 12 reactions.

This will be followed by a few episodes of Akhilesh galloping on a white horse to Mulayam. Once he reaches, in a bid to protect his image as the chikna son and using his power as the watchman of the kingdom, he dramatically sacks a few ministers, and cries on his mother’s lap for a whole episode.

The stage is set for the first big twist. Instead of pulling his son up, Mulayam decides that “boys will be boys” and backtracks on the merger with the QED. Akhilesh triumphantly rides his horse through the village while his subjects cheer. Just like the epic Ramayana, good has triumphed over evil, Shivpal has been burned, and Akhilesh is felicitated. And just like the Ramayana, it is hard to tell who is on the right side.

This seems as good a time as any to end the series. But ₹₹₹ speak louder than common sense, so the story continues for another 80 episodes. For this period, Shivpal continues to sulk, while Akhilesh builds his image as the adarsh Indian beta/politician.

We cut ahead to September 2016, when the story finally gets back on track. Akhilesh is the first to fire shots now by sacking a top bureaucrat named Deepak Singhal, who is a close friend of uncle Shivpal. His crime? Attending a party hosted by Amar Singh, another person Akhilesh hates. Singhal is played by Tusshar Kapoor, since he’s only there for two episodes, which is about all the Tusshar Kapoor viewers can handle.

Meanwhile, just as Akhilesh is about to set out on another victory march on his horse, he is stopped in his tracks. In our second big twist of this season, we reveal that Mulayam has actually had enough of his boys being boys. This gives Amitabh Bachchan the perfect setting to do his thing. “Rishte mein hum tumhare baap lagte hai,” he tells Akhilesh as he strips him of the title of head-in-waiting of the family. Akhilesh says, “Nahiii!” a few times and falls to his knees. Mulayam dangles the title of “leader of the family” above him… and hands it to Shivpal.

Akhilesh retaliates in the next episode by stripping Shivpal of most of his official work – he’s still the watchman of the kingdom. Frustrated with his lack of success at being evil, Shivpal attempts to give up his new title and play the victim card. But he is forced to continue by Mulayam.

Perfect time to insert another character. Enter, Mulayam’s cousin and another uncle to Akhilesh, Ramgopal Yadav. Ramgopal goes against both his cousins by coming out in support of Akhilesh. Riding high on this confidence, Akhilesh stands up one final time and sacks Shivpal once again. Hours later, Ramgopal is expelled from the ruling family and sent into exile for six years.

All hell has now broken loose. No one is sure about who’s in charge any more. And on this abrupt and chaotic note, we end another season of The Uncle Pradesh Saga. In the next season, we will reveal the surprise return of a character, the master puppeteer with a penchant for shayari, who has been pulling the strings all along. Stay tuned for another 100 episodes.