Director Shoojit Sircar and writer Juhi Chaturvedi yet again attempt gold, in a film that doesn’t reveal its true nature until the very end
Now this film has been one of the most discussed lately. Ever since this Amitabh-Ayushmann-Shoojit-Juhi film went on floors, it has been in news almost every other day. With COVID situation making this an OTT release, it once again boomed up the discussions and debates. For all things true, Gulabo Sitabo is worth it for the ultimate messaging. But all while the runtime, it keeps meandering in too many directions, making it lose its actual value. Well, Gulabo Sitabo of the title refers to the traditional puppets in the region who fight unendingly. Thankfully, the makers have symbolised the same in the film.
The film is set in present day Lucknow. Mirza Chunnan Nawab (Amitabh Bachchan) holds on to his dilapidated ancestral mansion crazily. He wants to wipe all the tenants off the property, because they have been paying too less for many years now. As good as only 30₹ per month. One of his tenants happens to be Baankey Rastogi (Ayushmann Khurana) who lives there with his mother and 3 sisters. He doesn’t want to go out because he has a meagre income and he knows he can’t get a better house to live in for so cheap. But troubles ensue when Mirza begins to sell off the property inviting legal consequences and the archeological department.
The story, screenplay, and dialogues are written by Juhi Chaturvedi. More than Shoojit, it’s a film that belongs to Juhi. It’s her signature all across the film. Every scene brims with her trademarks and eventually the messaging also adheres to the same. It’s a very very simple story, in a way that it doesn’t feel like a film. You feel to be in the neighbourhood watching all the actions unfold. Now that’s a very good quality of a film otherwise.
But here, you do miss cinematic qualities. There is no high or low point in the film. Even the opening sequence and the character establishment are plain and the film for its complete duration remains in that monotone. There is only one, only one, high point in the film, forming the climax of the film, where everything seems to join. But even that isn’t noteworthy, because by the very nature of the film’s treatment of not conveying much, you see that coming, atleast in the end. Because ofcourse, it’s Juhi Chaturvedi and she couldn’t let it go loose towards the end.
What is most enjoyable in the film are the dialogues. They are the gems. The way a lot is conveyed in one lines, most of the times, is commendable. Also, hats off to the actors who deliver those lines with such aplomb. You marvel the actors here for taking a simple line to an altogether great height just by how smartly they have been spoken.
The story deals with property issue, inviting a humourous banter between the landlord and the tenants. Both struggle in their own respective ways. The angles of archeology and law are also layers to keep the audience hooked into the narrative. But the film doesn’t hold you tight and right. There are also moments where you don’t see anything happening, and after the film is over, you can’t comprehend the meaning of some particular situations. Were they added only to increase the runtime? May be yes. And that’s not a very good sign for a film.
The 124mins film stands strong on technical grounds and it’s a difficult film to make. Because the narrative is straight and gives too much information, filmmaking becomes tricky. Kudos to Shoojit Sircar for maintaining the meanings there. Also, characterisation is good and actors have done a great job. But sometimes you also don’t understand their motive.
Amitabh Bachchan deserves a salute for this one. Undoubtedly. Catching not only the body language but also the mannerisms so correctly, he makes you fall in love with him, all over again. He is funny. He is adorable. He is annoying. He is rude. He is stupid. He is everything that you need in a character to cherish. He does such a fantastic job that you forget it’s somebody of his stature, and mind you, it doesn’t happen in every film of his. Simply brilliant.
Ayushmann Khurana too is very good, bringing his distinct style of emoting one liners. He does it so well that you keep waiting for him eagerly. It must be said that he becomes the victim of a rather weaker characterisation. But given the acting skills that he has, he makes the most of it in a wonderful manner. Donning a paunch and with a lisp, he is very admirable in his role.
Vijay Raaz is delightful. Simply outstanding. He has a restricted body language and he remains in the same. Nuances, mannerisms, eccentricity- it’s all that he holds on very strongly. Brijendra Kala too has a clear cut role. He too makes a mark, like always, like in every film. He has a very unique sense of humour that just by his appearance on screen, you have a smile on your face.
Farrukh Jaffar as Mirza’s wife, 15years elder to him, is impeccably superb. She is somebody who forgets things, but remembers key elements. She taunts anybody and everybody. You wish there was more of her. She has a very very key role in the film, although shorter.
Srishti Srivastava as Guddo, has a very good role. Making an impression with her presence, she makes sure she is a good actor. Ujali Raj and Ananya Dwivedi are also fine and bring reality in the narrative. Poornima Sharma in a very small role as Baankey’s lady love is also good.
Shantanu Moitra, Abhishek Arora, and Anuj Garg have been credited for original soundtrack. The songs sound very good during the course of the film. They also give meaning to the essence of the story, hence the mission here is accomplished well. Score by Shantanu Moitra is amazing. Binding the film correctly, the score sets the moods right. Had it not been for the rightly placed score, some scenes would have fallen plain flat.
Cinematography by Avik Mukhopadhayay is nice. The colours are suited for the film. The appeal is soothing. There is chaos in the story, but the feel is peaceful. Production design by Mansi Dhruv Mehta also aids in achieving this to the core. Setting has been done keeping in mind the realism. The next door image of almost everything makes the film an interesting watch.
Editing by Jogi Mallang is decently good. Given the nature of the writing, it’s the best that could be achieved. Of course, the scenes heavy on internal conflicts involving a lot of dialogues have been cut very smartly.
The film could be so much more. Suffering majorly due to its too simplistic nature, it keeps asking you to wait and keep decoding. You keep waiting for something good and major, but as life would have it, nothing of that sort happens. Nothing wrong about it. But when you see something on screen, you expect something big, in frequent places in the film, and not just in the last 10mins. It’s a very good film. But there is a difference between ‘very good’ and ‘great’.