Everything that comes with the tag popular attached to it, I’ve got a common action registered in my mind to confront it – shun the idea, no matter how good it is. When I first laid my eyes on the popular sitcom in Malayalam television, Uppum Mulakum, the series has already gained a cult following and was on the verge of breaking the internet.
They have crossed 500 episodes. And that too, amassing an average of 1.2 million views per episode, which of course, is a rare feat for any television sitcom in this tiny little industry.
My Story without salt and pepper
I was raised by a very strong mother and a quasi-military father. My childhood was silent, somber and straight-out of an Emily Bronte novel. I hardly spoke to my father let alone grab a seat when he is in the scene. My father read The Hindu, a staunch leftist newspaper. His favorite novelist was Anand and he used to play badminton with carbon fiber racket in Palakkad, where he worked for a very long time as Village Officer in the revenue services.
I was bored when I grew up to my teenage. I felt like I was taught not to appreciate what’s popular. Rather I was easily growing a penchant to dipshit things like Formula One, Michael Jackson, and Herman Hesse. But still, I was not a total nerd to deny my existence as I watched Shaktiman and Shakalaka Boom Boom on Sundays.
So, the point is, my father and my mother have raised a son, an egoistic megalomaniac who is a distasteful sadist.
In my teenage, I hated the concept of family to the core. I carried this belief to my first years of the twenties. It made me dizzy to think of sticking my head into an arranged marriage, having children and rear them like pigs. I despised the whole idea to become comfortable in my easy-going early twenties. I stepped up my defense when my mother asked me to think about marrying someone by closing the doors of my room with a perennial force.
So, I hated family. Then I was introduced to Uppum Mulakum (Salt and Pepper).
Uppum Mulakum is the saga of how Neelu, a bank employee, runs her home without prompting her unemployed husband to file for a divorce. Neelu is a strong woman, short-tempered but an example to her five children aged between eight months to 23 years. Her husband is Balu, an easy-going, electronics mechanic. He is unemployed but a caring husband and wonderful father who is more attached to his younger son, Keshu aka Kelavan Keshu.
Their elder son Vishnu aka Mudiyan is a dancer spotting an afro hairstyle. He is more attached to his mother and feels she is the one to be respected more. The second child, Lakshmi aka Lachu, aged 20, is a teacher at a kindergarten. She considers herself as fashion icon and diva, a claim she couldn’t prove to her family. Keshu, aged 12 is a bright student and dating his classmate Aleena Francis much to the dislike of his sister and partner in crime, Shivani. Shivani is a loud-mouthed child who teams up with Keshu to conspire against their elder siblings. And the last member of the family is toddler Parvathy who smiles every time a camera pans on to her face.
Why Uppum Mulakum is different
I was introduced to this television serial by a friend of mine. He gave me a warning before I stream a random episode on YouTube – It’s about a family and it has flaws. I saw an episode and felt something in my head. It was like a sensation, and it was important because the brain has failed to produce this sensation every single time I watched a soap opera on Malayalam TV. All leading Malayalam TV Channels – Asianet, Surya, Mazhvil Manorama, Kairali – have since time immemorial airing soap operas, but every single one of them, akin to Uppum Mulakum, have indirectly asked the audience to surrender their common sense and rationale before the title clip.
I watched another random episode, then another one and then I realized, I couldn’t stop.
Uppum Mulakum is a serial that has a female lead, a working-woman, who controls her family and earning respect from everyone in her family as well as every single viewer, who is utterly patriarchal and strictly adhered to fake morality (you must read the YouTube comments).
Neelu is a tour de force. She is short tempered, authoritative and smart. Her husband, Balachandran, on the other hand, is like a grasshopper. He dances to the tune of Keshu give respect to almost everyone in the home, while at the same time, guarding the respect he deserves.
Uppum Mulakum shows the uncensored version of the everyday family life in middle-class Kerala. It has a subtle amount of comedy ingrained in it, like salt in a meal. It doesn’t glorify the sanskari version of a woman. It just shows things as they are, with an articulate portrayal that doesn’t fail to evoke laughter and irony of family life.
The makers of the show seem like enjoying the process of creating a wonderful satire lampooning the system and the nuances of characters enjoying the loopholes of the same. The actors are brilliant, especially Biju Sopanam (Balu), a versatile actor who’s skilled as well as compassionate to evoke the emotions and touch the viewers on the right chord. Equally competing is Nisha Sarang (Neelu) in her role of the multitasking woman who has not shied away from her responsibilities.
Children, too, are a wonderful pack of actors. Shivani is a joy to watch. Her character, outspoken and ahead of her age, draw flak among viewers for being too sensitive and beyond her maturity. But, in fact, it was this design of characters that are not limiting to the preconceived notions have helped the show raised its bar.
The popularity of the show is still soaring. People are glued to their smartphones to stream the latest episodes that first air on Flowers TV. Uppum Mulakum undoubtedly is a pathbreaking production. It dared to show what is real and experiment it with fiction. When the question of marrying an independent woman and raising 5 children with all the possible conflicts and tensions raise, one has to look into this fantastic sitcom for inspiration because it leads nowhere, but home.
(Featured Image: The Uppum Mulakum Family. Photo Courtesy of Flowers TV)