The Uncle Pradesh Saga Season 2


The Uncle Pradesh Saga Season 2

Illustration: Juergen Dsouza

Recap: In Season 1 of the Uncle Pradesh Saga that concluded in October, we saw the strapping Akhilesh Yadav and his uncle-friend Ram Gopal Yadav take on patriarch Mulayam Singh and his favourite brother Shivpal Singh. The result was utter chaos, with Akhilesh barely retaining his title of watchman of the state, and Ram Gopal being exiled for six years. The season was further complicated by the last-minute entry of a master puppeteer, who has been pulling the strings, while spouting bad poetry, all along.

We begin this season two months after the first one ended.

State watchman Akhilesh Yadav is played by Ranveer Singh this time (last season’s Ranbir Kapoor was called in to play the fresh, challenging role of a frustrated rich kid trying to escape his father’s shadow). He sits in a barn plotting his next move with his only supporter, his uncle Ram Gopal who has narrowly escaped banishment. Akhilesh has been in and out of favour with his father, and has a big public referendum scheduled for the coming year. It is not a good time to be watchman of Uttar Pradesh.

Akhilesh cracks his knuckles and gets back to work. He’s making a list of ministers he would like to appoint from his family, if he is to keep his title. On Christmas day, he submits the list with great fanfare (producers please note than an item song with Sunny Leone or Katrina Kaif would fit in perfectly here). His list of 403 probable candidates will take up an entire episode.

Meanwhile, Big Pappa Mulayam Singh (played by Om Puri this season, since we can no longer afford Amitabh Bachchan), is sitting in his palace with the evil uncle, Shivpal, and making plans of his own. He has already consulted the master puppeteer who has warned him about Akhilesh’s move. Mulayam begins making his list of ministers. Three days after his son’s announcement, he wakes up, puts on his best kurta, and releases his own list, loyalist Shivpal by his side (cue another item song). With as many reaction shots as possible, he names 325 people, intentionally leaving out a few of Akhilesh’s friends.

Akhilesh learns of his father’s tie-up with “Shakuni uncle” Shivpal, while he is perched on a rooftop with uncle-friend Ram Gopal. He is surveying the kingdom and his eyes are glistening, but the tears are soon replaced by a cold, hard gaze. He steps off his perch in slow-mo and starts a dramatic walk toward his quarters. We end the episode here, leaving viewers on a cliffhanger since no one knows what he will do next.

The next morning, as the sun rises over the east, we cut to a foot stubbing out the burning embers of last night’s fire. The camera pans up slowly to reveal Akhilesh, wearing a shiny black kurta. Today, he will stand up to the man who has always put him down. Today, he will celebrate his Independence Day. At this point, we insert one hundred shots of babies crying, and mothers running around in circles, to convey the chaos ensuing in this world, before we take a mid-season break for the holidays.

We begin the next episode with Akhilesh announcing another list of ministerial candidates in front of a grand crowd. He takes 235 names, and we intercut each announcement with a shot of Mulayam reacting with various degrees of distress. Mulayam is seething by the end. The crowd is silent, as Akhilesh looks defiant. And then, Mulayam speaks. He banishes Akhilesh and Ram Gopal from the family for six years. The echo from his speech can easily last for the next 60 episodes.

We return to Akhilesh and his right-hand man being escorted out of the family palace by guards in armour. Akhilesh is banished from the house, but cannot be stripped off his watchman title and vows to take revenge. Mulayam then channels his inner Om Puri and realises that he cannot cast away his own brother and son, so Ram Gopal is unbanished once again.

The next day, Akhilesh and Ram Gopal light a bonfire and begin plotting. Their decision is made the same day (three episodes later).

Akhilesh has won the support of the family, while Mulayam’s own show of strength has been attended by three people and six hired dancers.

Akhilesh sheaths his hockey stick and puts on his best gamcha. All the unhappy members of the Yadav family are present. Akhilesh’s followers line up behind him, some on horseback, some in bullock-led chariots, but most on cycles. They begin another dramatic march, as a battle song plays on loop in the background.

After a few episodes of walking through a crowd of villagers who have gathered for the free food, Akhilesh and co make it to the podium. The crowd stops eating. Ram Gopal takes the mic and announces that the family has selected Akhilesh as the new patriarch. There is thunderous applause and then the crowd resumes eating.

While this is going down, Mulayam is waiting at home for a parallel party meeting he and Shivpal have called. They have hired the dancers and the food. Unfortunately, only three people have arrived so far. In a fit of anger, Mulayam throws open the gates, gathers his pehelwan’s gada that has been gathering dust for years, and makes his way to the scene of the announcement. There will be mayhem today.

Once at the podium, he stands face-to-face with his son for six episodes as the music picks up intensity. Shivpal and Ram Gopal have their own stare-down beside them. Faint sounds of Amar Singh reciting shayari can be heard in the distance. The eve of battle is upon them.

Mulayam makes the first move, immediately banishing his brother Ram Gopal yet again. But he forgets – Akhilesh was appointed the family patriarch two episodes earlier! Akhilesh has won the support of the family, while Mulayam’s own show of strength has been attended by three people and six hired dancers. Mulayam falls to his knees, defeated, as Shivpal is banished by the new patriarch. Akhilesh towers over Shivpal, hockey stick in hand, looking triumphant. The takeover has been successful.

Akhilesh turns to his father and picks him off the ground. “Sometimes to protect the ones you love you must make the right decision,” Akhilesh tells him, his eyes brimming over. “What I did today was a tough decision but one that I had to take.” Mulayam is pacified by this statement and walks off with Akhilesh’s convoy. Ram Gopal is chanting slogans about a new Uttar Pradesh behind them.

Shivpal is left with nothing. We end this sequence with a melancholic song. “Kasme waade pyaar wafaa sab baatein hain baaton ka kya; Koi kisi ka nahi ye jhoothe naate hain naaton ka kya,” Shivpal croaks, as the wind howls and the birds fly into the horizon.

On this beautiful and evocative note, another season of the Uncle Pradesh Saga draws to a close. Stay tuned for another 1,000 episodes. The next season of the series will feature some new entrants – a group of saffron-masked soldiers hiding in the shadows – even as old ones stage a comeback.