First publised on 2020-06-12 20:22:33
It is good that Gulabo Sitabo got an OTT release. It is definitely not a film for the masses as the genre of satire is not embraced by normal filmgoers in India. The other thing is that the film would have sunk without a trace if Amitabh Bachchan and Ayushmann Khurana were not acting in it. It is just the way these two actors get into the skin of their roles that makes the film watchable.
A 95-year-old Lukhnawi begum lives in a haveli with her husband who is 17 years younger than her. The haveli is full of tenants who have been there for ages and still pay paltry amounts as rent. The begum's husband Mirza, played brilliantly by Bachchan, is a parasite (though he keeps calling the tenants by that name) and is obsessed with money. He either taps the begum for funds or steals things from tenants to sell them. He says that he loves the haveli and waits for the day the begum will die and it will be his but later when someone quotes Rs 5 lakhs for it, he is shocked with a perverse desire to lay his hands on the amount and counts it in tens, hundreds, thousands.
His daily tiffs with the tenants, especially with Baankey, played with customary elan by Ayushmann Khurana, form the backbone of the film. The dialogues capture the social milieu and the language of the region. But each character is driven by an agenda and greed is the main motif. In fact, when Mirza is exhausted and bed-ridden after digging for gold in the haveli courtyard, Baankey tells him that he will die of his greed. The latter retorts that neither is he greedy nor has he heard anyone die of greed.
When matters get out of hand after Baankey accidentally breaks a wall, an officer from the archeology department (Vijay Raaj) overhears that the haveli is more than 100 years old and starts investigating to turn it into a "heritage" site. But he too is trying to plug his own scheme. The lawyer (Brijendra Kala) that Mirza hires to get the haveli transferred in his name does the same and has other ideas. The denouement is like a slap in the face of all who were trying to push their agenda. They had not bargained for the fact that there was someone who understood their games and was way ahead of them.
Director Shoojit Sircar has made better films. With Gulabo Sitabo, both Sircar and writer Juhi Chaturvedi have tried their hand at satire and one cannot say that they have been entirely successful. Among the other actors, it is Farrukh Zafar as the begum who steals the show. She is perfect in her role. Srishti Shrivastava as Guddo, Baankey's spirited sister, is also good. Vijay Raaj and Brijendra Kala also play their parts well.