It’s an oft-repeated adage that art imitates life. But in the case of the third season of ‘Rangbaaz’, it seems as if life is imitating art, with the plot line of the web series resonating with the rapid-fire political developments in Bihar that have unfolded like an unputdownable thriller since Tuesday, August 9.
Uncannily, the Zee5 web series shows the Nitish Kumar-like Rajesh Tailang character Mukul Kumar, constantly at odds with the Lalu Prasad Yadav-inspired Lakhan Rai (Vijay Maurya) over the latter’s refusal to let go of his pet ‘baahubali’, Haroon Shah Ali Beg, essayed by Vineet Kumar Singh. Beg is modelled after the late former Sivan MP and dreaded don, Mohammad Shahabuddin, who succumbed to Covid-19 last year.
As in the web series, the principled Mukul Kumar and the oily Lakhan Rai are more like frenemies, very civil and yet opposed to each other. Mukul Kumar comes across as meek and submissive in the presence of Lakhan Rai, but his eyes tell a different story. And his demeanour changes as soon as he becomes the chief minister.
Interestingly, Laloo is not shown to be the buffoon that the media used to make him out to be. He comes across as someone who knows his politics and understands the mechanics of power.
If viewers ever wonder who the two characters are inspired by, there’s a dialogue that is a dead giveaway. In one conversation, Mukul Kumar, talking about Beg, says Lakhan Rai has no ‘chaara’ (option), but to drop him from the party. Lakhan Rai erupts at the mention of the word ‘chaara’ and says he doesn’t like the word.
Obviously, the word play is all about ‘chaara’, as in the ‘chaara ghotala’, or fodder scam, which led to Lalu first stepping down as chief minister, and installing his wife Rabri Devi, and then spending an extended time in jail.
In real life, Nitish and Lalu (who, being the president of the Patna University Students Union, was the Bihar Chief Minister’s political senior) launched their careers in politics with the Jayaprakash Narayan-led anti-corruption movement against Indira Gandhi. After the historic 1977 general elections, Lalu became an MP on a Janata Party ticket from Chapra at the age of 29, and Nitish remained on the sidelines.
Eventually, Nitish, who referred to Lalu as his ‘bade bhai’ (elder brother), got elected to the Bihar Assembly from Harnaut in Nalanda district in 1985.
In 1989, NItish made his entry into the Lok Sabha from Barh (he won the seat in the 1991 midterm elections as well) on a Janata Dal ticket, backed Lalu’s election as Leader of Opposition in the Assembly, and a year later, he supported his good friend’s successful bid to become Chief Minister. At that time, it was known that ‘bade bhai’ always sounded out his ‘chhote bhai’ before taking any major political or administrative decision.
But Nitish Kumar’s ambition came in the way of their friendship and the break happened on Februrary 12, 1994, when he, against Lalu’s wishes, joined the ‘Kurmi Chetna Maharally’ in Patna’s Gandhi Maidan. He then formed the Samata Party with George Fernandes, led his party into the 1995 Assembly elections, and returned with all of seven seats in a House of 324 (Bihar was then one state).
After this electoral disaster, Nitish and George — ironically for two former socialists — hitched their wagons with the BJP-led NDA in 1996 and joined the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government. Since then, Nitish has been a Union Minister (1998 to 2004) and Bihar’s Chief Minister (2005 onwards), even as Lalu has seen his political fortunes yo-yo and ended up in jail because of his role in the infamous fodder scam.
Nitish, meanwhile, stayed in the BJP fold, then fell out, had a brief honeymoon with Lalu’s RJD, now led by his son Tejashwi Yadav, and it ended as suddenly as it started. Nitish was back with the BJP till he made his breakup official on Tuesday, August 9. He’s back with Tejashwi and Lalu has returned to his life.
Even as the latest chapter of the Nitish saga unfolds itself, the second season of another political drama based on Bihar’s riveting contemporary history is all set to start streaming on SonyLIV from August 25.
‘Maharani 2’ will see Huma Qureishi’s Rabri Devi vacate the chief minister’s seat for the Lalu-inspired Sohum Shah character, even as Amit Sial’s Nitish Kumar hovers in the background, fishing in troubled waters.