GULABO SITABO (2020)

Ayushmann Khurrana and Amitabh Bachchan in Gulabo Sitabo – Prime Video
  • Release Date: 12/06/2020
  • Cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Ayushmann Khurrana, Vijay Raaz, Brijendra Kala, Srishti Shrivastava
  • Director: Shoojit Sircar

Amitabh Bachchan’s endearing Mirza saves Gulabo Sitabo from sinking completely

The first half of Gulabo Sitabo was very difficult for me to sit through but as the story progressed my interest was quipped for what happens to Mirza (Amitabh Bachchan) and his plans for his wife’s dilapidating mansion. Mirza isn’t strictly speaking a loveable gentleman, but his frail physicality and his simplicity gradually start melting our hearts, and there comes a time when we want him to get what he wants at any cost. That essentially is the biggest motivating factor that the film had for me to continue watching it.

On the other side of the conflict between the landlord and tenants is Baankey (Ayushmann Khurrana). He runs his own meager business and is on loggerheads with Mirza for the extremely low rent that he pays for his stay and various other issues including the Mirza doubting that Baankey might be planning to make himself permanent on his mansion. They harass each other at the slightest behest and one such conflict takes them to the police station where they attract the attention of an official of the Archeological Survey of Indian, Gyanesh (Vijay Raaz). Gyanesh sees the tiff between the landlord and tenant and the dilapidating condition of the mansion as an opportunity to claim the mansion for his department. Meanwhile, Mirza employs the services of Christopher Clark (Brijendra Kala), an advocate who he believes will earn him the ownership of the mansion from his wife but who turns out to have his own agenda on the whole matter.

Gulabo Sitabo is propelled forward by what each of these parties is doing to get hold of the mansion and how they go about it. The most important and decisive impact on the whole matter is poised to be that of the decision of Mirza’s wife who is the owner of the property and is not keeping well. Mirza believes that she may die at any moment and after that, the property will be his. However, he comes across various suggestions and questions from people that raise enough doubts in his mind as to whether he will be able to take control of the mansion after the death of his wife. All these elements are put together to present an engrossing tale of emotions and actions that are testimony to the very basics of Indian character.

Amitabh Bachchan as Mirza in Gulabo Sitabo – Prime Video

The character of Mirza is easily the best thing about the film. By the time we reach the climax, we realize that his whole life has been a never-ending toil to end up as the owner of the mansion. He married a woman 15 years older than him for the mansion and has ever since dreamed of getting the ownership of the property. However, when the time comes for that dream to be a reality, there are forces and situations that look set to rob him of his moment of glory and satisfaction. In the very beginning, there is a small bit wherein we get a glimpse of how desperate Mirza is to see himself as the owner of the mansion. By the time the film reaches its end, we are able to relate to what must be going on inside his mind and how desperate his situation might be. That happens because of how well the character is written, essayed, and built up.

Amitabh Bachchan as Mirza delivers a knockout performance. It is needless to mention and praise his efficiency in essaying a character as he is one of the living legends of world cinema. What I will instead concentrate on is how well he brought out the physicality and mannerisms of Mirza that render the character absolutely adorable. He is frail and dimwitted to the extent of being cute. When Baankey tells him that there might be some hidden treasure in the mansion, he sets out the next day to dig it out and in the process faints. He goes to get NOCs of some of his wife’s relatives and gets loathed in front of his lawyer. When questioned by the lawyer, it dawns on us that he didn’t even realize that he was being loathed. Mr. Bachchan brilliantly essays moments like these that not only make you roll with laughter but also help you to connect with his character. This connection makes us care for what happens to him in the end. As I mentioned before, if it was not for Mr. Bachchan’s terrific essay and the well-written character of Mirza, Gulabo Sitabo would have been a difficult film for me to sit through.

Ayushmann as Baankey is quirky. He speaks with a slight lisp which adds a pinch of sweetness to the harsh words that he is throwing at my favorite Mirza. He has his own set of problems. He is uneducated and hence doesn’t know a lot of things. He wants to be a leader and take the forefront in all actions against the Mirza. He is utterly dismissive of any suggestions that his sisters have to offer on any matter. His sisters are growing up fast, but his income is unable to match their educational needs. His girlfriend wants to get married, but he doesn’t have the courage to speak about her with his family. All this contributes to making his character somewhat tragic but at the same time hilarious to a certain extent. He is the perfect foil for the Mirza, and it must be agreed that he strikes a gullible chemistry with Amitabh Bachchan to deliver a compounded effect of their respective acts. That, in itself, is a big achievement.

Ayushmann Khurrana as Baankey in Gulabo Sitabo – Prime Video

Vijay Raaz and Brijendra Kala are the next two most important players in the narrative. They essay characters that are all too well suited to them. There aren’t any challenges here for them as both are superlative actors and are put in roles that are close to their comfort zone. Hence it is pointless to mention how great they are because we all know that they are bound to excel in characters like these. I was thoroughly impressed by Srishti Shrivastava who plays Baankey’s practical sister Guddo. The ease and comfort that she brings to some tricky sequences spoke a lot about how effective she might be in more challenging roles. She is an absolute pleasure in some scenes where she is allowed to go full throttle.

Having said all that, Gulabo Sitabo has its share of issues.  I feel that it is a good thing that the film released on OTT straight away because this is not the kind of film that I would care to watch on the big screen shelling out premium money. There isn’t anything here that one would miss if he or she watched it on the small screen. The issues and the story that the film deals with is not going to appeal to the younger audiences. The film will have a very niche audience who will care to sit through and let the characters get a hold of their senses. If the viewer doesn’t forge an immediate bond with the character of Mirza or Baankey, chances are they wouldn’t be able to sit through the first half. There isn’t any thrills or inspiration here or for that matter character-driven drama to sustain interest and encourage the viewer to sit through the film. It is a story about a few very ordinary people and their ordinary problems. Even after they are faced with the problems, none of them does anything extraordinary. The climax left me a tad bit bewildered as it didn’t make much sense. It must be agreed that the climax did make a tragic hero out of Mirza, but the path taken by Shoojit Sircar to achieve that was questionable. The film moves at a lethargic pace which might be an issue for many who are looking for instant entertainment.

Gulabo Sitabo is saved to a great extent by the endearing act of Amitabh Bachchan and Ayushmann Khurana. It should have been funnier and should have had a lot more meat in terms of content, drama, and twist to keep the viewers engrossed. Since the film is on the OTT, giving it a try should not be a problem and one might end up liking it for its characters and some genuinely funny moments.

Rating: 3/5 (3 out of 5 Stars)   

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