Gulabo Sitabo Review & Rating
Shoojit Sircar - The national award-winning film director has the knack of coming up with films that have a deeper look at human emotions. Irrespective of the genre, his film’s characters look real and deliver dialogues that are not so cinematic. While that has worked in favor of Shoojit’s movies in the past, what worked against is the slow narration. We are not the ones to decide the pace of a film and it is purely the director's choice. Any movie lover or a film critic would understand this but other than them, the normal audience would find it uncomfortable. This is the reason, Shoojit’s films despite getting critical acclaim were limited to a smaller set of audience. This time, he chose the legendary actor Amitabh Bachchan and the in-form Bollywood actor of the current generation Ayushmann to play the lead roles in Gulabo Sitabo. But, this time the film is available on OTT platform directly instead of theatres. Will this new atmosphere become an advantage for Shoojit? Or he has a solid film in hands that would work anywhere? Let’s find out.
The story of Gulabo Sitabo which is set in Lucknow has two primary characters Mirza, Baankey and it revolves around a mansion owned by Begum (Mirza’s wife). Baankey is one of the many tenants that live in the mansion for a mere rent of Rs. 30 per month. The tenants were provided with shelter decades ago for less rent and they continue to pay rents which are less than 100. This irritates Mirza who is a greedy person waiting for the death of his wife so that he can get the mansion and evacuate all the tenants. Things get complicated when an archeological officer Gyanesh Shukla (played by Vijay Raaz) and a lawyer Christopher Clark (Brijendra Kala) enter the scene.
While the storyline of Gulabo Sitabo is interesting enough, three things work majorly. One - the greedy and grey shaded characters who are poor, desperate, and helpless. Two - the dialogues which are full of wit, smartness, and innocence at the same time. Three - the perfect casting which enhances the overall film. Spoilers Ahead!
Mirza sells off things of his tenants for a mere Rs. 20 or so just for his living. He is a greedy man for sure but he is not a villain as well. He is not harsh with his tenants. Mirza needs money for his living until the mansion becomes his own. On the other hand, Baankey has to take care of his mom and 3 sisters who are studying. He runs a wheat mill and stopped his education after the 6th standard. So obviously he stops paying the Rs. 30 rent as well and looks to continue in the same mansion as long as possible. This basic conflict between them is entertaining and the entry of more and more characters with talented actors only increases the fun.
What spoils the fun though is the amount of time it takes to reach a major conflict with so much inconsistency in the narration. The behavior of some characters requires an explanation as there is no consistency there as well. Also, the viewers need to have a decent amount of patience to sit through the first 30 minutes or so. If the writer Juhi Chaturvedi had been a little more cautious while locking the script, Gulabo Sitabo would have been a fun ride.
Nevertheless, the last 30 minutes of the film is a huge bonus as a surprise is in store for the audience. That one twist makes up for all the lost time and is sort of a revelation. Shoojit has taken his own sweet time to wrap up the film during the climax but it is worth watching it.
Quite often we are never satisfied with what we have. Wanting better things in life is a must for development but it should not come at the cost of not valuing what we have. We must never leave the ground aiming for the skies. Gulabo Sitabo deals with the exact same point. Yes, humans are greedy. But there should be a limit to everything. To greediness, to selfishness, to everything, there should be a limit. Otherwise, we would be blind-sighted.
Somewhere on social media, I read “There is no overdose of Ayushmann Khurrana”. Despite watching at least half a dozen films of Ayushmann in the last 18 months or so, we can’t get enough of his performance. He has become the poster boy of contemporary Bollywood cinema and is getting better with each film only. In Gulabo Sitabo too he plays the typical North Indian sub-urban guy but with more conviction. To stand equal among the likes of Amitabh Bachchan, Vijay Raaz is by no means easy. But every time Ayushmann is on the screen, he steals our attention. What makes Ayushmann different from his contemporaries, is that he is not afraid of giving the limelight to other characters in the film. He is not insecure as he is aware of what he is doing and trusts his talent.
Also, Amitabh Bachchan is in fine form these days just like Ayushmann. His body language, look, voice modulation, everything looks very different from what he has done so far. To go to such extents for a role sure shows his dedication. Vijay Raaz once again shines in his role as an archeological department officer. After grabbing our attention in a small role in Gully Boy, Srishti Shrivastava gets a meaty role this time and impresses. She plays Guddo, Baankey’s sister - who is educated and confident. She deserved a better character arc though. Brijendra Kala, Farrukh Jafar, and others did their roles well.
Direction and Technical Departments:
Let’s start with the art department. Mansi Dhruv Mehta and team have done a fantastic job in presenting the mansion in the right way. The mansion is what the film revolves around so the look of it plays a major role in the story. Cinematographer Abhik Mukhopadhyay who worked for critically acclaimed films like October, Badla has captured the mood of Lucknow perfectly.
The writer Juhi Chaturvedi who provided story, screenplay, and dialogues does a fantastic job. Shoojit Sircar - the director of this film has given it his own touch to make things lighter and delivers a subtle message at the end. The music and background score are in perfect harmony with the movie. Kya Leke Aayo Jagme and Budhau stand out among the songs.
Gulabo Sitabo might not be the best film in the career of Shoojir Sircar or Ayushmann Khurrana. But it offers ample entertainment which does not imply loud laughs or sleazy dance numbers. It is an honest film with a decent story and great performances. You may watch it for Amitabh and Ayushmann’s performances alone.
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