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Gulabo Sitabo [Review]

Gulabo and Sitabo are analogies to an old landlord Mirza (played by Amitabh Bachchan) of a dilapidated traditional mansion (haveli) and his mischief-maker tenant Baankey (played by Ayushmann Khurrana). The film’s name, however, attributes to the popular street puppet show in the city of Lucknow where it is set. Both the lead characters fantasize about owning that estate someday.

Now, why would the landlord dream of owning it? Because it doesn’t belong to him in the first place. Mirza is eagerly awaiting his old wife’s (Farrukh Jafar, who owns Fatima Mahal named after her )death so that he can claim the property while the ignorant Baankey, unaware of the occupancy laws, wants a share as well. Both live in utter indigence – and yet harbour daydreams of fulfilling their ‘Nawaabi’ ambitions in the near future. Subsequently, the archaeological department sets its eye on Fatima Mahal with the intent of declaring it a heritage site. A government official (Vijay Raaz) is assigned the task of ousting the inhabitants.

The film spends a lot of time in developing its characters but the screenplay is too weak to hold someone’s attention for two hours. Also, there is zero novelty value for the viewers as the landlord-tenant clash has been dealt before in older Bollywood films. In order to add to that, the film forcibly inserted unnecessary subplots of Baankey’s love interest and the unscrupulous builder angle etc, removing which would not take away much from the movie.

Honestly speaking, I looked forward to an incredible viewing experience because of the two lead actors. However, as soon as I saw Mr Bachchan take refuge behind a big nose, I felt cheated. Surely an actor of Big B’s calibre would not need props on his face to bring out the susceptibility and the emotion of his character! The whole get-up took away from the feeling. Also, his dialogue delivery was a little too powerful for a weak old man in some of the scenes.

Aysuhmann Khurrana performed well but it seemed that he was being kept in check to ensure that in every scene with Mr Bachchan the power of balance rested with the latter.

The back story of Mirza and his Begum was not shown as much as people would have liked to see & the avarice of the old man was not explored entirely, it all seemed a little incomplete. The story did not work well for me.

On the positives, the supporting cast did well. Vijay Raaz and Brijendra Kala are completely natural while Srishti Shrivastava as Baankey’s lustful sister deserves a round of applause.

On the technical front, the city of Lucknow has been captured quite authentically, the production values were great, the picture sharp and the songs good but the background score jars on a couple of occasions. At the end of it all, the movie left me with a sense of regret – it could have been a wonderful movie with the kind of team it had.

Right from the advent, there are numerous laggy and slow-paced scenes in this movie. It is perhaps not your best pick if you want to watch something solely for the purpose of entertainment (except if you are a die-hard fan of any of the actors, or if you would like to tour old Lucknow through the lenses of the film in the middle of this pandemic).

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