Shoojit Sircar’s Gulabo Sitabo is a unique movie that impresses the audience on practically every level. It is the first Bollywood movie to be released after the long industry hiatus, and it sets the bar rather high. It is funny, exciting, off-beat and well worth a watch.
Mirchi Play Rating- 4/5
Gulabo Sitabo begins on a humble note and quickly establishes the plot. Fatima Mahal, an old, dilapidated haveli in Lucknow becomes the point of dispute. Mirza (Amitabh Bachchan), the stingy, stubborn landlord wants to increase it’s rent and subsequently sell it, while Baankey (Ayushmann Khurrana), the shrewd and equally stubborn squatter refuses to budge his wallet or himself. Therein begins the battle of wits between the two as each tries to outsmart and harass the other, resulting in a comical and unconventional cat and mouse chase.
But it doesn’t always take two to tango. Soon enough, they bring in third parties, each with their own selfish interests. The Archaeological Department, who want to pawn off Fatima Mahal for governmental perks and a snarky lawyer who aims to sell it to a Builder and keep a large cut.
The biggest plus of this movie are the characters. Amitabh Bachchan has exceeded all expectations as Mirza. Despite the heavy makeup and prosthetics, his acting shines through. He perfectly embodies the miserly, incorrigible and grouchy Mirza, who’s favourite hobbies are locking doors and wishing for his wife’s death. Ayushmann Khurrana manages to hold his own in the same frame as Bachchan, which is remarkable. As Baankey, he is crafty, perpetually stressed and astute. He’s bold to the extent of being slightly gullible. Both Ayushmann and Amitabh compliment each other beautifully. Their characters, although at cross heads show stark similarities as well. Both are egoistic, scheming, stubborn and both unwilling to abdicate their right to Fatima Mahal.
The humour stands out in Gulaabo Sitabo. Juhi Chaturvedi has done a great job with it. It is commonplace and strikes the right chords. Whether it’s Mirza being petty and locking all the shared bathrooms in the haveli to teach his tenants a lesson, Inspector Shukha (Vijay Raaz) having his first encounter with Baankey while physically perched on a tree or the the multiple ludicrous stinging insults Mirza and Baankey hurl at each other. One of them being, “Choosi hui aam ki gulti jaisa chehra hai tumhara”. The movie won’t have you falling off your bed with laughter, but will give you the occasional chuckle and long drawn giggle.
The production of the movie deserves a special mention to. It immerses you in this Lucknowi haveli with it’s peeling walls, old-timey aura and dilapidated existence. As a viewer, you become part of their poor, penniless world and even relate to their miserly instincts. The cinematography is excellent, and Avik Mukhopadhyay has further accentuated the impact of Gulabo Sitabo. The ethnic background score and minimal use of songs works in it’s favour too.
However, the film does drag in some parts and gets unnecessarily dull. Somewhere through the second half, the story over-complicates itself and becomes confusing for the viewer, because there is merely way too much going on and way too many loose ends emerging. Both Baankey and Mirza, while hilarious, are not particularly likeable characters, and may become unbearable to watch in these long drawn out scenes.
A special mention must be made to Mirza’s wife and owner of Fatima Mahal, Begum (Farrukh Jafar). Despite having a total of some 5 dialogues in the movie, she manages to throw slick curveballs and have some true ‘gangsta’ moments. While Mirza assumes her to be a decaying, dulling, dazed woman on her deathbed, she turns out to be everything but.
This unconventional Tom and Jerry tale is genius in simplicity. The end may not be good or bad, but it suits the narrative and beautifully sums up the irony in their situation. Mirza and Baankey may not be loved by you, but they will be appreciated. Their is comedy in their tragedy, and it leaves a lasting impact. The movie will also have you wondering HOW 78 year old Amitabh Bachchan did not break his back after this. Gulaabo Sitabo is a must watch and missing out on it would be an injustice to the movie, and to yourself.
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