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Director: Shoojit Sircar
Cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Ayushmann Khurrana, Farrukh Jafar
There’s a thing about the collaboration between writer Juhi Chaturvedi and director Shoojit Sircar. She can make absolute mundane things look interesting with her subtle humour and flavourful dialogue and he will make them cinematic with his direction. Their films Vicky Donor, Piku, October, and now Gulabo Sitabo are proof of that.
Where Piku and October were more like character studies, Gulabo Sitabo does have some plot. From the first frame itself where you see Mirza, played by Amitabh Bachchan stealing a light bulb, you are invested in the character. And it obviously becomes interesting to see what he goes on doing. He is married to the Begum of the Haveli ‘Fatima Manzil’ which is in a dire state now.
Watch the Gulabo Sitabo trailer here:
Mirza is up against one of the tenants of the Haveli, Baankey Rastogi (Ayushmann Khurrana). Mirza wants the tenants to leave the Haveli so that he can own it all by himself but Baankey with the support of other tenants is not going to leave so easily, rather at all. Thus, begins a journey of one-upmanship during which both men try all tricks up their sleeves (often petty issues) and some with the help of others to oust one another.
Both of them are living miserable lives under the same roof. The strength of this film are its eccentric characters, written well by Juhi Chaturvedi and brought to life on screen by all the actors. Chaturvedi has such a great command over the language and its nuances that even in a few shots you know so much about the characters. The writer knows the weight and value of words and that makes the dialogue so flavourful.
All the actors do adequate jobs in portraying these characters. This is arguably Amitabh Bachchan’s most nuanced performance yet. He doesn’t let his Bachchan-ness takeover Mirza. Ayushmann Khurrana is that rare actor who is secure of his place in the film (2018’s sleeper-hit Badhaai Ho). Here, his Baankey doesn’t have as much consistency as Bachchan’s Mirza, but he delivers what is expected from him. What was projected to be a tussle between Mirza and Baankey, becomes a tussle between Mirza and Begum and few others like archaeology department and a builder also get involved.
Supporting characters are played by a fiery Srishti Srivastava, ‘the dependables’ Vijay Raaz and Brijendra Kala, and the lovely Farrukh Jafar as the Begum. A much deserved credit for making these characters what they are also goes to make-up and prosthetic designer Pia Cornelius and costume designer Veera Kapur Ee. Shantanu Moitra’s background score gives the film a therapeutic feel.
Gulabo Sitabo has an old charm. Lucknow, where this film is based, lends its heritage charm to the film as well. The brokenness of the Haveli as well as the characters plays out really well throughout the film. Avik Mukhopadhyay’s cinematography and Mansi Dhruv Mehta’s production design give the film an antique cinematic look. It could have been a delightful watch on theatre’s big screen.
Writer Juhi Chaturvedi and director Shoojit Sircar don’t rush to get to the point. They spend time with and around the characters and the setting with smartly woven personality traits, reactions and details of the places. At times, they become too indulgent with them. Maybe because of this, the film might feel ‘slow’ to some people. But Gulabo Sitabo demands your attention (and you should pay it). There’s so much to see in this ‘antique’ piece of cinema. This one should not be missed.