Directed By – Shoojit Sircar
Star Cast –
Amitabh Bachchan, Ayushmann Khurrana, Vijay Raaz, Brijendra Kala, Nalneesh Neel, Tina Bhatia, Shrishti Srivastava and Farrukh Jafar
A drama comedy directed by Shoojit Sircar, Gulabo Sitabo was released on 12 June on the Amazon Prime platform. With Ayushmann Khurrana and Amitabh Bachchan sir in the lead roles, the story is set in the City of Nawabs, Lucknow.
Meet Mirza (Amitabh Bachchan), a landlord in his second childhood, who would go to extreme lengths for his prized possession, no, not his wife or children or any other human being, but a dilapidated mansion, Fatima Mahal in the heart of the Lucknow city. Fatima Mahal is a 100-year old mansion in omnishambles, and a home to few families, tenants who pay a meagre rent of 30-70 rupees. While Mirza dreams day and night and wishes desperately to be the sole, legal owner of Fatima Mahal, there are a few thorns in his way, the tenants. The biggest thorn and a nuisance for Mirza is particularly chakki-selling Baankey Rastogi (Ayushmann Khurrana), a stubborn tenant who neither pays the rent on time, nor leaves the mansion.
What we see gradually is a typical Tom and Jerry squabble over the haveli. Although, Mirza is merely the care taker of the mansion as the Haveli belongs to his wife, the Begum, the real owner, he carries out his lordship over the tenants, especially Baankey. There is a continuous hurling of verbal slurs, arguments and petty bickering between Mirza and Baankey, where Mirza is desperately wanting to clear the mansion off Baankey and his family, while Baankey claims that he cannot be thrown out as their family has lived in the mansion for seven decades.
Mirza devices scheming ways, from time to time, to achieve his life dream of owning the mansion and of eliminating all the tenants out of it while the sly Baankey is ready with some or the other excuse of not letting go of the mansion nor paying the rent, with his classic excuse of “main gareeb hu, khaane ke liye kuch nahi hai, paise kaha se du”. When Baankey accidentally breaks the brick wall of the common toilet one morning, an angry Mirza finds the opportunity to get rid of the tenants and rushes off to the thana to settle the dispute. The dispute is far from being settled, instead few other characters who over hear the squabble in the police station try to get their hands on the property. While on Baankey’s side it is the extremely shrewd Ganesh Mishra (Vijay Raaz), who convinces Baankey to carry out a certain plan, Mirza too has an ally to foil any plan which is Cristopher Clark (Brijendra Kala). What we come to see is the classic story of the two cats and the monkey, where both the cats fight with one another for the piece of cake, while the monkey eats it up and takes off.
The movie is a satirical piece, with Shoojit Sircar constantly trying to give the message on the psychology of mankind and how greed can take one to shallows when it becomes the guiding force in the life. From the beginning of the movie one can see Mirza as a greedy, miser man. His stinginess is known all over Lucknow, while Baankey is a young, poor wheat mill owner who has to shoulder all family responsibilities as well as put up with Mirza’s annoyance. Another aspect portrayed in the movie is the age gap between Mirza and his wife, the Begum who is 15 years older than Mirza, a funny pairing with its own tale. The moment when Mirza and Baankey trade slurs, the authenticity of Lucknowi tongue is reflected, as the writer Juhi Chaturvedi ensures. Also, the two traditional puppets, Gulabo and Sitabo, which appear at regular intervals, inspires the title of the movie and are at constant loggerhead with one another, just like the lead actors.
What keeps one wanting to see the movie is the curiosity of knowing what makes everyone constantly fight over an ageing mansion. Of course, along with two eminent actors who have done justice to their roles. Shoojit Sircar’s Gulabo Sitabo cherry-picks Greed as the central theme and weaves an intriguing tale with the two contentious characters. Sircar has stepped out of his comfort zone with a story like this and has kept it wonderfully real. The characters are as poor as those living on the fringes of the society, and their threats and squabbles as mundane as their lives. Each character has their own profit and sole motive of greed in every action of theirs, and the lead duo also become pawns to a bigger game in the movie. Gulabo Sitabo thus, reflects both personal and institutional greed.
With an excellent cinematography by Avik Mukhopadhyay and a complying, soothing background music by Shantanu Moitro, the movie may have been at a languid pace but is still a quirky must watch for all. With Bachchan sir delivering a role of scheming, old khusat budha with his glasses and a slouch when he walks, and Ayushmann keeping up with his tricks and insults, reverting back with equal tricks and insults, doing a complete justice to his role, Gulabo Sitabo is basically a domestic drama with a short and simple message but which gradually evolves to a satire with an erratic climax.