GULABO SITABO movie review: A Meandering Tale of Greed!

Gulabo Sitabo on the surface may look like the usual banter comedy between a landlord and his tenant, a relationship often thrown in movies as a side note to generate some easy laughs. But here, it is not all laugh and fun. Because deep beneath the surface, the film reveals itself as a introspective look at the futility of all the greed, and what one really stands to gain at the end of it all.  Kya Leke Aayo Jagme , Kya Leke Jaayega croons Vinod Dubey in one of the songs in the movie.

In one scene, the main character asks an expert on what is the value of the prize that they are after. “Priceless” comes the reply.  As in life, the characters here too only learn the true value  when the thing they are after is truly gone. As the film winds down, we find one of the character finds himself losing his past, everything that he held on to all his life, while the other helplessly watches his potential future disappear into thin air as his girlfriend moves on.

In Shoojit Sircar’s world of Gulabo Sitabo, the prize referred earlier here is that of  Fatima Mahal. As glorious and majestic it the name may sound, the real condition of this age-old mansion is deplorable. And yet, everyone seems to be after a piece of this  almost-in-ruins rundown ‘haveli’.  The caretaker of the mansion is the grouchy Mirza (Amitabh) who is handling the things for the real owner of the property, his wife, the Begum (Farrukh Jaffar), who is seventeen years older to him. Ayushmann Khurrana plays Baankey Rastogi, one of the tenants,who has been living with his family for years,  and one who is  hardly able to cough up the paltry rents of Rs 30-70 that is being asked. So, Mirza is determined to get rid of Baankey and hence the two is constantly at loggerheads with each other.

However, with the archaeology department swooping in in the form of Gyanesh (Vijay Raaz) and on the other end, a property specialist lawyer Christopher Clark (Brijendra Kala) coming into the picture, the race for the claims to the dilapidated mansion literally gets out of hands.

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Unfortunately, this game of one-upmanship between the parties involved takes too long to set up. And once in, we keep going in circles for long lengths making its mere 120 mins seem much longer than it actually is. The plot, like the ‘haveli’ in question, is certainly not going anywhere but writer Juhi Chaturvedi uses the space and time to give broader strokes to her characters. It isn’t until the fag end of things when things finally get a move on. But by then, one feel it maybe a little too late.

The real problem is the distance audience have with the characters. Juhi is content letting the characters be as they want to be, not confined to black and whites with no one judging anyone. There is no coloring to make the characters likeable or appealing. So, we are not connected or emotionally invested in that sense to neither Mirza’s or Baankey’s struggles.  Certainly, by design. And yet, when the whole purpose of their rather purposeless tiffs disappears, one is left with a melancholic wave.

Set in the old-world charm of Lucknow, director Sircar draws out a love letter of sorts to the city, with the non-intrusive cinematography of Avik Mukopadhyay, letting us slip into the locales. And writer Juhi takes advantage by bringing in the flavor of the locality and language alive. So many people unfamiliar with the lingo may lose out some of the fun. And the official subtitles certainly do no justice here.

Besides the dialogues, the real strength is in the cast and how seamlessly they get into the skin of the characters. Amitabh spearheads that department with one of his most remarkable of characters in Mirza. Under a prosthetic nose and those thick glasses, hunched, he is hardly the tall, deep baritone voiced superstar that we are used to. He literally becomes the character and is undoubtedly the life of the movie. And surprisingly one with no bones of goodness to him.

Ayushmann puts in a good effort but he never really gets much from the script to chew on. So much so that he has to add something like a lisp to keep things interesting which keeps coming and going. Unfortunately, just did not feel the chemistry required between the lead duo. As always, Vijay Raaz and Brijendra Kala are pitch perfect in their respective roles making them a delightful addition to the proceedings.

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Special mention to the women in the film and the way they are written even though not in major roles. They are not sitting around and waiting for incompetent men to make decisions for them and are more in charge of their own destinies. Farrukh Jaffar as Fatima Begum is a riot with her wit and humour while Srishti Shrivastava puts in a scene stealing act as Baankey’s sister Guddo, one that breaks the stereotypical idea of a ‘hero’s sister’ role in Bollywood.

Gulabo Sitabo works better as a social satire when it is dealing with the citizens vs the govt battle, with the haveli being a stand-in for the nation. We have tenants who are paying rents for 70 years, but still complain of the raw deal they are getting and being denied of basic rights.  The ‘caretaker’ meanwhile is happy selling off assets from the property or even ripping off the tenants for a quick buck.  So much so the tenants are taking about revolting against the ruthless demands and conditions put by the caretaker. And in one of the most hilarious bits, when Mirza is asked why he is hated this much, he states he is oblivious of any ill-feelings whatsoever.

Unfortunately, all of these positives that the movie holds are buried in a rather meandering screenplay. The small fleeting moments have some charm to it (and some even work better the second time around), but it never really comes together as a whole. And that is a pity.

With neither the charm of PIKU, the emotions of OCTOBER, nor the fun of VICKY DONOR, this turns out to be easily the weakest from the Sircar-Juhi partnership.

 

Cast:  Amitabh Bachchan, Ayushmann Khurrana, Vijay Raaz, Brijendra Kala, Srishti Shrivastava and Farrukh Jaffar

Directed by Shoojit Sircar

Music  Shantanu Moitra, Abhishek Arora, Anuj Garg

Now streaming on AMAZON PRIME

October Movie Review: After The Fall

 It is said there’s nothing crueller, than a life snatched away in its prime. But what would one say about the fate of a soul, a consciousness, trapped in that grey zone between the structure of life, and the release of death. One may never know what it goes through, but for those that surround it, its loved ones, it is never easy to just stand by and watch, not knowing, but only relying upon words emanating from the realm of speculation.

October, from its promos, promised to be a low key drama about life, loss and acceptance, but does it manage to weave a credible story around it?

Continue reading “October Movie Review: After The Fall”

Piku Movie Review: “Bhaskar nahi, Bhaskor!”

Recently, I’ve been playing this game on facebook – in which I say my favourite thing about the people who ask me to. It is lovely, emotionally draining and cathartic. More relevantly, though, it has become a parade of me asking myself, why am I sad I’m not this person? Why can I not even conceivably be this person? And that is usually my favourite thing about that person; this is not an accident – Elementary‘s Sherlock Holmes agrees with me:

one of the things I’ve gained from our collaboration is a working definition of the word “friendship.” Friendship, I’ve come to believe, is most accurately defined as two people moving towards the best aspects of one another.

Not long after I played this game (well, began playing this game; I still have two people left), I was watching Shoojit Sircar and Juhi Chaturvedi’s Piku.Continue reading Piku Movie Review: “Bhaskar nahi, Bhaskor!””

Piku Movie Review: ‘Motion Se Hi Emotion’ an Honest Tagline for an Honest Film

Imagine you are on a date with someone, perhaps this is your first date with him/her and unfortunately you go on to discuss things related to excretion and bowel movements due to some unavoidable reason right in front of the person. How do you think the date would work out? In Shoojit Sircar’s Piku there’s a scene when Piku (Deepika Padukone) meets a guy (Akshay Oberoi) on a date and later leaves the place frustrated along with her friend and business partner, Syed Afroze (Jisshu Sengupta). Piku confides in Syed that she didn’t like the guy whom she met for dinner and states reasons like he doesn’t watch Satyajit Ray films 🙂 etc to support her decision, while Syed only asks her one question-did she talk to her dad while her date was on? You will need to watch the film to understand why such a simple scene like this clearly conveys the crux of the tale so wonderfully.Continue reading “Piku Movie Review: ‘Motion Se Hi Emotion’ an Honest Tagline for an Honest Film”

Piku: A Quick Review

Piku PosterJust like the name is an esoteric movie. You can narrate its story in a moment as it doesn’t have a ‘definitive storyline’. Yet its story is the daily life of its characters- Dee’piku’, her constipated father -Bhaskor Banerjee (played by  Big B) and the taxi owner Rana Chowdhury effortlessly enacted by Irrfan Khan.Continue reading “Piku: A Quick Review”

Khoobsurat Movie Review: A Sweet Surprise

Every time you develop a pre-conceived notion, some higher power quietly smirks to mock you. Many a times it has been proclaimed loud and clear, do not judge a book by its cover, and yet the human nature is such that we do inevitably conjure up a feeling by just looking at things and not experiencing them. Now that the life gyaan is over, I must admit that despite many years of writing film reviews, I can’t help forming an opinion of the film before even seeing it, like most of us. However, I try my best to not force the opinion on anyone before I get to see the film, neither do I fish around for the buzz or response to the film before buying the ticket. On first chance, I walk up to the window and purchase the ticket, ready to see my predilection turn true or false. The beauty lies in being surprised with a crash of your earlier notion. Khoobsurat is one such film.Continue reading “Khoobsurat Movie Review: A Sweet Surprise”

Nominations For the Best of Bollywood 2013!

Like most other years, 2013 too has been an eventful year for the Hindi film industry. And unlike other years, 2013 was also the 100th year for the Hindi film industry. However, the centenary wasn’t really a landmark in terms of quality; we didn’t have a watershed of extraordinary films. Yes, we had a few brilliant pieces of cinema but we also had a truckload of terrible movies. What has been most encouraging in this entire melee is the gradual acceptance and support rendered to smaller films. While we had Kiran Rao helping a “Ship of Theseus” to get a release, we had a Karan Johar taking “The Lunchbox” out to the masses. In this post, I enumerate my (completely) personal list of favourite films of 2013 and their different aspects. These are my nominations for the best of Bollywood in the year 2013. While I have considered six nominees for every category (most of which are non-technical), I have added one more as “Almost There”, whom / what I feel is good but not enough to be on the list. Would love to get your vote from the nominees or any additional candidate you feel like.Continue reading “Nominations For the Best of Bollywood 2013!”

Madras Cafe Movie Review: A film not to be missed, for anything, by anyone

Madras CafeIn the last scene of Madras Cafe, this week’s anticipated release, the lead character of the film recites a famous Rabindranath Tagore couplet that talks about a free nation. Save for this dramatic outburst, Shoojit Sircar’s fictionalized dramatization on the backdrop of real-life events in Madras Cafe, sticks to its guns and does not play to the gallery.Continue reading “Madras Cafe Movie Review: A film not to be missed, for anything, by anyone”

Fourth Edition of The Laadli National Media Awards for Gender Sensitivity 2011

The  fourth edition of “The Laadli National Media Awards for Gender Sensitivity 2011-12” for honoring Media and Advertising professionals was organized by the NGO, Population First, on Tuesday, 5th February 2013 at Tata Theatre, National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA), Nariman Point, Mumbai.The Laadli Media Awards were instituted in 2007, as part of the media advocacy efforts under the Laadli girl-child campaign. The objective of the awards was to felicitate acknowledge, recognize and encourage media, journalists and advertising professionals to keep working on gender issues and to draw the attention of the public to their positive efforts in the media with regard to gender sensitive reportage.Continue reading “Fourth Edition of The Laadli National Media Awards for Gender Sensitivity 2011”