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Gulabo Sitabo movie review: An ‘antique’ dramedy that owes its charm to its eccentric characters

Amitabh Bachchan and Ayushmann Khurrana try to one up each other for an old Haveli in this ‘antique’ little film that charms you with its subtle humor and eccentric characters, courtesy its writer Juhi Chaturvedi.

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Ayushmann Khurrana and Amitabh Bachchan in Gulabo Sitabo

Director: Shoojit Sircar

Cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Ayushmann Khurrana, Farrukh Jafar

Rating:

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.

Also read: Breathe: Into The Shadows review: A promising psychological thriller becomes a slog

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.

Also read: Rasbhari on Amazon Prime Video review: A scattered tale with no Ras

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.

Movie Reviews

Hostages 2 review: Felt like being held hostage

Disney + Hotstar’s Hostages season 2 is bigger and better than its first season; yet it is inconsistent and a bit too stretched

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Hostages season 2

Hostages Season 2

Director: Sachin Mamta Krishn

Cast: Ronit Bose Roy, Divya Dutta, Shweta Basu Prasad

Streaming on: Disney + Hotstar

Hostages (based on an Israeli show of the same name) season one had a unique premise and twists and turns; and ended on a cliffhanger. Hostages season 2 is much bigger and better. But it has the same problem of inconsistency as season 1. Sure, there are enough twists and turns to trigger your curiosity. But a sloppy screenplay stretches the drama too much. In the 12-episode long duration, there’s always a scope for re-editing. These days, crime dramas and thrillers have become more realistic (for the better), hence, you don’t have to bear the passive aggressive dialoguebaazi. The dialogue here though, except for a few gems, lacks impact.

Also read: Bandish Bandits review: A melodious treat

The twists are astonishing, no doubt. But the sloppy execution takes the adrenaline out of it. If you have been binge watching crime dramas and thrillers (there’s a plethora on OTT) you can expect what could happen next. The usual camera and editing techniques used to create suspense and tension aren’t handled effectively. Every episode has a new revelation but a cumulative duration of about six hours becomes a little too long a wait to see the end.

Hostages 2 has an ensemble cast and some good performances. Ronit Bose Roy as SP Prithvi Singh leads the pack alongside Divya Dutta’s clever Ayesha Khan and Shweta Basu Prasad’s fiery Shikha Pandey. An always dependable Amit Sial does full justice to his role of a confused, agitated nurse/compounder Peter. It was good to see veteran Kanwaljit Singh as the head of the police department. Dino Morea and Shibani Dandekar have extended cameos. Their scenes together have nothing else to offer than yawns.

Also read: Masaba Masaba review: Funny and breezy mother-daughter story

There are all the mandatory characters of a crime drama/thriller. There are quarrelling intelligence officers, angry cop versus sensible cop, a confused in distress, a loyal, emotional fool who would create panic and a manipulator. The seasoned actors mentioned above and a few new (relatively) faces put on performances, but they seem staged and individualistic rather than unified and organic. The director Sachin Mamta Krishn is only executing what’s written on paper. His direction never really appears to be aspiring or controlled.

The twists are plotted in every episode with the intention of keeping you hooked. But not knowing enough till almost the eighth (of total twelve) episode tests your patience. Felt like being held hostage to watch this one.

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Movie Reviews

Bandish Bandits review: A melodious treat

Amazon Prime Video’s latest original Bandish Bandits directed by Anand Tiwari stars Naseeruddin Shah, Shreya Chaudhry and Ritwik Bhowmik

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Bandish Bandits

Bandish Bandits

Creators: Amritpal Singh Bindra, Anand Tiwari

Cast: Naseeruddin Shah, Shreya Chaudhry, Ritwik Bhowmik

Streaming on: Amazon Prime Video

Amazon Prime Video have been upping their game in Indian original series as compared to their leading counterparts Netflix, Disney+ Hotstar, and Zee5. They have produced some of the finest and loved series in last couple of years; Inside Edge, Mirzapur, The Family Man, Made In Heaven, Panchayat, and Paatal Lok to name a few. Their latest offering Bandish Bandits that dropped in August is a much needed break from the crime dramas/thrillers that fill up most OTT platforms these days.

Bandish Bandits is created by Amritpal Singh Bindra and Anand Tiwari who were one of the first creators in the Indian OTT scene. Their latest product Bandish Bandits tells a story of a singing prodigy Radhe Rathod (Ritwik Bhowmik) from classical gharana and a pop sensation Tamanna Sharma (Shreya Chaudhry). Radhe’s world turns upside down when he falls in love with Tamanna. He’s caught between supporting his love and staying true to his own music and his family’s legacy.

Also read: Class of 83 review: Interesting but lacks adrenaline

The lead couple (Ritwik & Shreya) here is affable and their chemistry feels natural. The contrast between their personalities brings out a fresh on-screen romance. Shreya has a natural spunk and Ritwik doesn’t seem to be just lip-syncing to the songs during his riyaz and singing sequences. The last I remember someone doing it better rather best (that I have seen) was Ranbir Kapoor in Rockstar.

Naseeruddin Shah plays Panditji, an aging musical maestro of Jodhpur and Radhe’s grandfather. It’s a delight to see this acting maestro play a singing maestro, keeping secrets of his own behind his legacy. These three are ably supported by Rahul Kumar, Sheeba Chaddha, Rajesh Tailang, Amit Mistry, and Atul Kulkarni. Kunal Roy Kapur plays his usual funny self. Some kickass dialogue helps him not become monotonous. All the characters here have layers. That’s the beauty of long format storytelling. You wouldn’t see the nuances and problems of supporting characters in a feature length film.

Also read: Masaba Masaba review: Funny and breezy mother-daughter story

A musical such as Bandish Bandits needs the grandeur and heritage Jodhpur provides it perfectly. Swapnali Das’ production design and Sriram Ganapathy’s cinematography give the series a vibrant, colorful and soothing look and feel. Shankar Ehsaan Loy’s music is soulful. The singing and riyaz sequences in the series are its best assets (a must for a musical). Long format allows you to be indulgent and creators here make full use of that. The writers Bindra, Tiwari, Lara Chandni, and Adhir Bhat give each character their space, voice and time.

At 10 episodes with an average duration of 40 minutes, Bandish Bandits may seem to be a stretch in some episodes. My favorite episode was the second one titled Shuddhikaran which chronicles the penance of Radhe to be eligible for Ganda Bandhan (threading ceremony). I divided my viewing of this series in couple of days. Turned out to be a melodious treat.

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Movie Reviews

Masaba Masaba review: Funny and breezy mother-daughter story

It is refreshing to see a series about two strong, independent and successful women without preaching feminism gyan.

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Neena Gupta and Masaba Gupta

Masaba Masaba

Director: Sonam Nair

Cast: Masaba Gupta, Neena Gupta

Streaming on: Netflix

I wonder how comfortable or uncomfortable would it be to play yourself (or a version of you) on screen? Netflix’s new original Masaba Masaba features renowned fashion designer Masaba Gupta and her mother actress Neena Gupta playing themselves (or a version of them). Masaba who turns actor with this series seems perfectly at ease in front of the camera. Her mother Neena who has become a go-to actress to play mom post Badhaai Ho, is the show-stealer. Whenever these two women are on screen, you simply can’t take your eyes off them.

The series is semi-autobiographical. It’s difficult to distinguish between facts and fiction. The treatment is bold and funny. It is refreshing to see a series about two strong, independent and successful women without preaching feminism gyan. Masaba is a character/person which is hardly ever seen in Indian content. The similarity flashbacks of adult Masaba and child Masaba are some of the nicest sequences.

Also read: Class of 83 review: Interesting but lacks adrenaline

The series has delightful cameos by some lovely women – Kiara Advani, Pooja Bedi, Shibani Dandekar, Malavika Mohanan and Farah Khan (my favorite cameo). Creator Ashvini Yardi, director Sonam Nair and her team of writers (Punya Arora, Nandini Gupta, Anupama Ramchandran) have created a funny and breezy, six-episode tale of a fabulous mother-daughter duo. The dialogue is top rated and the screenplay is crisp.

The series is set in the millennial & colorful world of fashion and production design brings this aspect out excellently. I assume some of the portions must have been shot at their real home and office. The use of Instagram in the narrative is done smartly. In a world of showing off on social media how cool your life is an addiction (sickness?), many people use it as a self-defense mechanism also.

Also read: Shakuntala Devi review: A delightful film; Vidya kasam!

However, sometimes, the semi-autobiographical story seems to saunter around on the surface level. It doesn’t really dig deep into the psyche of the characters where the real problems lie. Things are passed on as mere information that you need to get and move on with the narrative. No time to know these two women more for Neena has often shared her issues of being forgotten/sidelined by casting directors or filmmakers, the challenges of being a single parent etc. These things haven’t been given much attention.

The series has its flaws, but life too has them. But it seems to be an attempt to embrace those flaws and celebrate the mess as you navigate through it. Worth checking this one out.

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