GulaboSitabo is a traditional puppet show of Uttar Pradesh in North India. The show is named after the two heroines of the show: Sitabo, the overworked wife, and Gulabo, the pretty mistress of the same man. The show is all about the fight between the two women and used as a metaphor to the fights between Baankey and Mirza, the two protagonists of Shoojit Sircar‘s latest venture.
The film sets somewhere in Lucknow, a city still trying to hold on to its glorious past which now has left with old dying mansions and just a history to talk about.
Shoojit Sircarthrough the dark and dampen lanes, takes us to one of these debilitating mansions called Fatima Mahal. A decaying old mansion with broken walls, trembling staircases and an aged dying muslim woman Fatima Begum, who happens to be the owner of this place..
Here, we meet Mirza. Begum’s much younger Husband, known to almost every other local as the greedy old man.
Though he should have been taking care of his old wife at this age, Mirza is much more engaged in the cat fights with his tenants. From stealing their light bulbs and selling them for a few pennies to locking their rooms from outside if they come home a little late.. Mirza has tried almost everything to get rid of these years old tenants but being the only one opposing, tenants don’t even take him seriously. Baankey, one of the tenants, lives with his mother and 3 sisters is the arch-rival of Mirza.
The film which takes its time to settle in, started as a simple domestic fight where both the parties are equally invested in it.. As the film progresses, we witness more drama and chaos as more people from outside take part in this confusing matter of property dispute.. What comes out of all these, is a satire on greedy humans and their lives..
The only problem I have with this film is its runtime which could have been squeezed in to another 20-30 minutes shorter. The subplots (For example, the love interest of Baankey) could have been developed in a better way but it felt like the makers were least bothered about them.
Juhi Chaturvedi‘s writing is brilliant.. Yes it takes time to let the audience be a part of the story, but once you’re in.. there is no turning back. I’ve always been a fan of Juhi’s writing, but with this film she has shown how versatile she is.. The characters are not unique but very reachable.. Baankey or Mirza or even Guddu are people who we see everyday at work or in markets or just in the neighborhood. It’s a story of ordinary human beings and their ordinary lives.
The camera work is another department which made me fall in love with this film.. If someone asks me to describe this film in one line, I would simply say that this is a love story between Avik Mukhopadhyay (DOP) and a rotting mansion somewhere in Lucknow.. The city has been captured with much care and gentleness.. The humidifying atmosphere and the mundane lives of the ordinary people have been captured with such passion.. This film is ought to be seen in a theater, not in a streaming platform.
The performances are another positive aspect of the film. Amitabh Bachchan as Mirza leaves his mark, though I found similarities between him and Piku’s father..Ayushmann Khurrana had nothing new to offer, he has been playing the same character for quite a long time now. Who surprised me the most is Srishti Shrivastava, who played Baankey’s younger sister and her portrayal of Guddu is fun, energetic and bold. It’s good to see actors like her is getting the exposure they deserve. Vijay Raazand Brijendra Kala in their limited screen presence didn’t disappoint either. Farrukh Jafar who played the owner of the Mansion aka Begum, looked so comfortable portraying the character that it felt like she had been actually living in that place for ages.
Shoojit Sircar is definitely one of the brightest and finest filmmakers of our generation, and with this film he yet again proved his worth. Coming completely out of his comfort zone, Sircar tells us a humane story with such honesty and warmth.
One can clearly see through each frame of this film, how he’s passionate and in love with his craft. When someone makes a film with all his heart, you can feel that in his film. Gulabo is definitely not his finest work, but it’s possibly his most mature film till date.
In conclusion, Gulabo Sitabo is a fine piece of work and films like these make me really hopeful for a better future of Hindi film industry.
Rupam here.. My relationship with Cinema is just what people call, love at first sight.. I fell in love with the art of film-making in the last year of school and from then there was no turning back.. Lately I've been busy with other works but still try to explore different genre of unheard and less talked about films and TV shows, when ever I get time.