New Movie Gulabo Sitabo Bollywood Movie Review |

 Gulabo Sitabo  Bollywood Movie Review

This video is brought to you by MUBI, a curated streaming service showing exceptional films from around the globe. Get a whole month free at Greed, for the lack of a better word, is good, greed is right, greed works. You remember Gordon Gekko’s memorable lines from Wall Street? Gulabo Sitabo is the antidote to that. "The movie, coordinated by Shoojit Sircar and composed by Juhi Chaturvedi, is a mixed investigation of avarice and its results." But this isn’t a morality tale. Shoojit and Juhi don’t judge their characters.

They just present them with every one of their defects and fragility. The result is a film which is slyly funny, because human behavior is so often ridiculous, but also deeply melancholic. Gulabo Sitabo is infused with lament for a more elegant, civilized world, which is now crushed by the crass and the corrupt. The name Gulabo Sitabo originates from conventional manikin workmanship, in which the two characters squabble ceaselessly. Like Gulabo and Sitabo, Mirza and Baankey are always at loggerheads.

Mirza is the landlord. Baankey, the inhabitant who pays just 30 rupees every month. They engage in a constant game of one-upmanship. Baankey threatens Mirza. Mirza steals his light bulbs and makes his younger sister spit out a piece of mango that she has eaten because it’s not hers. They are petty and a little pathetic. At the center of their battle is Fatima Mahal – a once-grand mansion in Lucknow that is now slowly crumbling – literally. When Baankey, out of resentment, kicks the washroom divider, it crashes. This ‘khandani haveli’ is a prominent character in the film. Shoojit and DOP Avik Mukhopadhyay showcase it like they would a fading star. We see the arches and the grills, the vast rooms and long corridors, the courtyard and the walls with peeling plaster.

The haveli, which is over extremely old, is incapacitated, yet it has more respect than a large portion of the characters in the film. But then these individuals lead such hardscrabble carries on with, that we comprehend their distress and their steady jugaad to excel. These people are on the margins of middle class. A better life is in sight, but it’s not within reach. Baankey is disappointed by his impasse work, his absence of instruction, his fraying relationship with his better half, who lets him know evidently: "Humein pata nahi tha, ki aap itne gareeb hain". Mirza has spent a lifetime hanging tight for his accomplice – the Begum who claims Fatima Mahal – to kick the bucket so he can acquire it. He’s bent over, not just with age, but with his own servility.

Together they are combustible. The film takes its time setting up this world, which is both contained and timeless. The first hour moves at a measured pace. In this, Gulabo Sitabo is more similar to October than Piku. The humour is quieter. These characters aren’t necessarily like-able, so you might feel a little fatigued in their company. The story additionally wanders, there's this entire piece about Mirza burrowing for treasure which just appears to be constrained. However, have tolerance, in light of the fact that gradually the enthusiastic rhythms of the film grab hold. And the plot jump-starts. Juhi’s superpower is her ability to create keenly observed characters. They may not have much screen-time, but we know who these people are.

Take Brijendra Kala’s Christopher Clarke – a Catholic lawyer in Lucknow, who insist that he’s special, because he speaks English at home. His asides, in English of course, are superb. Vijay Raaz as the government official, who haughtily declares that he is archeology, is equally good. And then there are the women in the film, the brilliant Begum, who casually asks Mirza if they got married or eloped. When he says married, she says, “Toh hum bhaage kiske saath the?” Its amazing, I laughed out loud. There’s also Baankey’s sister Guddo and his girlfriend Fauzia, both of whom have more smarts and sass than he does. Whatever thoughts we may have about ladies in traditionalist situations, these ladies won't cling to them. Their unpredictability propels the story.

One of the additional joys of the film is the language – even the affront sound pleasant, as choosi gutli sa chehra and deemak kahike. It’s lovely to listen to words like ulool jhulool, chironji and khandani paikhana, which incidentally means bathroom. The actors revel in the writing. Particularly Amitabh Bachchan who with a prosthetic nose, white facial hair and larger than usual glasses, deserts his Bachchan-ness him. He makes Mirza cantankerous and stubborn, but also a shade tragic. I wondered, did anyone ever love this man? Ayushmann Khurrana doesn’t have props to play with, but he holds his own in front of the formidable Mr. Bachchan. He laces Baankey’s inherent misery and sourness with anger, so that Baankey is always on the verge of exploding.

In this film, he’s not the usual Ayushmann hero, grapplingwith a taboo topic and then impart in a life lesson. It’s a tougher, more complex gig and he pulls it off, including a slight lisp. The stand-apart is Farrukh Jaffar, who plays Begum – she's more than 85, yet her shining character overwhelms the edge. Gulabo Sitabo is probably going to be a gained taste. As I watched, I wondered how this old-world film, might have played out in a theater. What might the warm blues and oranges of the haveli look like on a big screen? Would Shantanu Moitra’s nostalgic plaintive score, enrich the visuals more? I also worried that since streaming platforms don’t encourage commitment – if you get restless with one story, you just click on the next, how many people will actually see this film through? We’ll never know. But Gulabo Sitabo leaves you with smile and an ache.

And that’s a rare combination. You could see the film on Amazon Prime Video. Now to tell you a bit more about MUBI. It’s a film streaming service showcasing the best of Indian cinema on their MUBI INDIA channel and classic international hits on MUBI WORLD. It premieres a new film every day on each channel! This week I highly recommend you checkout "Ottaal", its streaming now on MUBI INDIA.


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