Here's a most disinterested hello to the small-town India trope in Hindi cinema (and now OTT). There's a simple working-class kindhearted (perhaps virginal) boy who has fallen for a fast-talking weed-smoking girl who curses at the drop of a hat, knows how to drive a jeep, and wouldn't be caught dead in anything that actually resembles full clothing. If you have enough of a budget, you might manage an Ayushmann Khurrana or Rajkummar Rao and Yami Gautam or Kriti Kharbanda. We're kinda cost-cutting here.
What is the story about?
Naveen Kasturia plays Rajnikant, a sessions court judge who is stuck in Bhagalpur at the behest of his father, played by advocate father Sanjay Mishra. When we first meet Rajni, we are introduced to his tremendous work ethic... one where he is letting his father's clients off easily. Rajni is your typical spineless everyman. And he lands himself the independent and bold Bulbul (Ruhi Singh). A misunderstanding results in Bulbul disappearing from their marital home. Where the 'runaway lugaai' lands up and what circumstances make her run away in the first place is a pursuit for most of the first season.
Small town culture makes up some of the key idiosyncrasies of being an Indian. So, there is always the potential for an interesting and unique story. Over the last few years, we've covered a whole lot of ground in romance between unlikely couples (Tanu Weds Manu, Shaadi Mein Zaroor Aana, and any socially-driven film Ayushmann has done). Unfortunately, Runaway Lugaai does little to add to that canon as much as it just reminds you of these much superior works.
Kasturia and Singh share such little chemistry that one can't help but wonder why it has become a thing that these wimpy men mope after their runaway brides. Let these girls find their independence and themselves, you settle down with a respectable ghoonghat-rasoi girl instead. Not that Rajini and Bulbul are interesting by a mile... he just goes faffing around getting frustrated by her absence, and she smokes up her way through to a very lucrative career. No time is spent developing these one-dimensional characters or their relationship. Still, whatever story potential the show does have with Bulbul's disappearance (a political conspiracy or a psychosocial dilemma) is dragged on for ten episodes. Like any other film, the show can be wrapped up in a maximum of five episodes saving half its unnecessary runtime. The pay-off in the finale (with a pointless celebrity cameo) is terrible.
At the end of the day, Runaway Lugaai is a comedy (or is at least marketed as one) and it has one good joke over the course of its ten episodes. The show just isn't funny. The first few episodes may still have smile (not even laugh) moments. There is literally nothing to smile or laugh about in the second half of the season.
I must say I was mighty impressed with the fact that Sanjay Mishra made it into this, thinking that his performance would add some gravitas to the show. Mishra is good at his job so it isn't unbelievable that he plays the typical overbearing Bihari father to Kasturia's typical doormat Bihari son. The dialogues of the show are heavy and incorporate a lot of local flavour (both in style and in words), and both Kasturia and Mishra do a fantastic job delivering them. Ruhi Singh struggles to look believable as a Bihari and her accent is all over the place. But even if the actors try, they can't elevate the show's mediocre and frankly, drab writing.
Music & Other Departments
Nothing stands out. There are random Bhojpuri numbers here and there which are mostly forgettable.
Apart from Kasturia's generally affable presence, I can't think of a single highlight for Runaway Lugaai.
In the attempt to retain the feel of the area, the show is unnecessarily stuffed with cursing and makeout scenes (as if to compete with the Mirzapurs of the world). The story takes a million minutes to get to the point and there is no nuance to the comedy.
Did I enjoy it?
No. Frankly, I'd rather watch Mannphodganj Ki Binny again.
Do I recommend it?
I'm sure there are better uses to your time than to spend on this below average garbage. Avoid.