Gulabo Sitabo is a film that will grow on you, with dialogues that you will think of long after you have watched the film, only for you to giggle at it. From the Piku duo — Shoojit Sircar and Juhi Chaturvedi — Gulabo Sitabo may have been set in a totally different world, but it still gave me serious Piku déjà vu. I guess it’s the whimsical humour or Amitabh Bachchan‘s recurring presence as the eccentric old man.
Set in the regal town of Lucknow, the story introduces Mirza Nawab (Amitabh), a 78-year-old, greedy land-lord of the huge yet dilapidated, Fatima Mahal. He dreams of the day his Begum will die so the mansion can finally become his and limps in the alleys of the Lucknow markets, selling his tenant’s bulbs for a few pennies in return. The tenant being Baankey Rastogi (Ayushmann Khurrana), who has lived in that house his entire life and never leaves an opportunity to bicker with Mirza over his atrocities. To this battle between the tenant and the landlord, add external elements like the government, law, and politics, and we see an intelligent satire on how we get inflicted with greed and fight all our lives for something that we realise isn’t even ours to take.
Throughout the film, Lucknow and Fatima Mahal in its centre seems to be one little bubble where Mirza and Baankey are stuck in. Their bickering pushes them into the world outside, putting their beloved property at risk. It’s an alien world to them and they turn vulnerable to all the encroachers who are after their ‘priceless’ mansion, which makes our hearts go out to them. Though the film might turn a little slow in the middle, it is Baankey and Mirza’s endearing charm and wit that keeps us hooked. The cinematography of the film by Avik Mukhopadhyay and the music by Shantanu Moitra just set the mood right for this humorously melancholic tale.
What I loved most about this movie is the many characters who add such authenticity to a tale that juxtaposes the old-world charm of Lucknow and the dark and dirty antics that play out behind the scenes — all with some witty humour, of course. From Pandey Ji (Shri Prakash Bajpai), who keeps reassuring his bestie Mirza that Begum will die soon, or the archaeological officer Gyanesh Shukla (Vijay Raaz) and lawyer Christopher (Brijendra Kala) — this motley bunch of characters bring the world outside into Fatima mansion. Everyone in the scene has an ulterior motive, to the point where you wonder who really is the villain among them. Also, brownie points for the writers for crafting some rather striking women characters who are the ones to call out the men for their misdoings. From Baankey‘s sister Guddo (Srishti Shrivastava) to the Begum (played by the delightful Farrukh Jafar), to Baankey’s mother — who chooses to give his sisters an education over him, they make such strong cases so nonchalantly.
With Amitabh and Ayushmann in the film, this sure is one that’s worth watching over the weekend!