Digital Review: ‘Gulabo Sitabo’ (Amazon Prime)

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Writer Juhi Chaturvedi is back with director Shoojit Sircar for ‘Gulabo Sitabo’ which has now begun streaming on Amazon Prime. The film brings together Amitabh Bachchan and Ayushmann Khurrana for the first time in something that sees both of their characters in a feud over a haveli. The trailer and songs have promised a tale which would be socially relevant somewhat and also filled with comic moments, but does it really deliver that?

Mirza (Bachchan) is married to the owner of a haveli which has tenants, including Baankey (Khurrana) and his family. When the former wants to raise the rent for them all, and Baankey and the others are against that, there in starts a battle. Mirza’s wife Fatima Begum is 95 and the rightful owner of the haveli and Mirza begins to want her death to come soon so that the haveli can become his and he can throw out the others who reside there. Baankey and the others are simultaneously trying to find ways to keep their places there. When Baankey touches the brick wall outside the shared bathroom one morning and it ends up collapsing, they end up in a police station having to defend themselves as to whether it’s the tenants’ or owner’s responsibility to fix the issue. But it doesn’t end there!

You can tell from the packaging that the film is written by Chaturvedi – it has her stamp all over it. With Sircar’s direction of this small-town story and its colourful characters, it quite literally comes alive and the world it creates is full of limitations, greed, tunnel-vision and easy influences. What stands out is that the motives of some of the ensemble cast are difficult to pinpoint and the main characters are often relying on those supporting characters to make their own decisions towards their individual end goals. This makes for many layers to the narrative which, in the most part, don’t disappoint.

Seeing Bachchan and Khurrana together is quite a treat from the onset but what makes their appearances in this film so special is that their characters are both victims of circumstances, in a way. The scenes that they have with one another are mostly with others included but the few where it is just them two, you can absolutely feel the magic they both have together. In many ways, Mirza and Baankey are inhibited and when they are around one another, this is heightened. This makes for intriguing viewing for the audience, with the legacy that Bachchan has and the kind of cinema Khurrana has carved a niche for in recent years. Vijay Raaz, who plays the archaeologist, is applauseworthy in his role, with some comical moments which seem very natural. Brijendra Kala as the lawyer is also effective in his part, once again instigating certain feelings and ideas for Mirza which take the story forward. Shrishti Shrivastava plays Khurrana’s sister who really stands out, as does Farrukh Jafar who plays Begum.

‘Gulabo Sitabo’ is, quite frankly, a story which evokes many different emotions in the audience with its satirical feel. What it achieves is a story which keeps the audience’s attention with its many different scenarios and characters trying to preempt occurrences which never really seem to happen. The end of the film is funny and also a little far-fetched but it gives the appropriate comeuppance and result in terms of a karmic finale. There are parts within the film in which the viewer needs to work hard to not divert their attention but there aren’t many of those, albeit with a slow pace overall throughout. In fact, it is a little distracting that Amazon Prime’s subtitles seem to make up certain dialogues completely of their own which are often not a direct translation of what’s actually being said!

Watch ‘Gulabo Sitabo’ for the chemistry between Bachchan and Khurrana, which really is the film’s USP. You’ll definitely be pleasantly surprised that Sircar and Chaturvedi have given the two actors roles which are completely unlike what they’ve been seen in before, in a plot which is relatable even if you’ve never been in any of the characters’ predicaments yourself. It’s strength is in the characters’ attitudes and constraints which drives each one to focus on something specific which intertwines them all in one way or another. You end up feeling like you are one of them and that is the beauty of this script and the treatment its received on-screen.

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