Amitabh Bachchan, Ayushamann Khurrana.
Who are Gulabo Sitabo? It is explained almost in the very beginning in the form of two puppets. The two ‘ladies’ are popular because they live to bicker, and their bickering brings a smile to the spectator. Shoojit Sircar’s bickering duo are Mirza (Amitabh Bachchan) and Baanke (Ayushmann Khurrana).
The two reside in Fatima Mahal, in Lucknow. Mirza being married to the owner of Fatima Mahal, considers himself the owner. Despite silently wishing, his wife passes on so that he can be the sole owner of his own Taj Mahal. The only difference being Taj Mahal was the love of between the husband and wife, where’s Mirza’s love is only and only for Fatima Mahal and not his wife.
His big dreams of having the whole mahal for himself has a few deterrents, his tenants (5 to be precise) residing in the corners of the grand Mahal. His greatest nemesis is Baanke whose family has been residing there for decades, at the same rent of a measly Rs. 30/ month. No matter how Mirza insults, and irritates Baanke, the latter refuses to move. Neither does he want to pay a buck more to the cantankerous man. Baanke is almost as snide as Mirza is mean and the two just don’t see eye to eye. Most of the problem lies in the fact that Fatima Mahal is not really how it appears to Mirza. The once sprawling mansion is now a dilapidated structure with grandeurs only ghosting in the memories of its owner. So, it is hard to understand Mirza’s fixation to a pile of bricks which literally falls down with one kick. But it is his one true love. He justifies all his weird behaviour and pettiness to this grand obsession.
Things start to change when an officer (Vijay Raaz) of the archeological department starts taking interest in the place because of its heritage value. Suddenly, Mirza’s Fatima Mahal is a pot of gold but a pot that he might just lose if things go awry. Between the government, the judiciary the two bickering Gulabo Sitabo have no standing. Will they get played for? Who will have the last laugh? Well, you need to see that for yourself… but here’s one thing I can assure you…the film will leave you restless…
As an audience, I have a lot of patience when it comes to slow paced cinema. But I too shifted uneasily on my sofa, restless for something to happen. Shoojit Sircar and Juhi Chaturvedi have made some fantastic cinema together, each time duo has refused to hasten the pitch. That’s just their modus operandi. Unfortunately, Gulabo Sitabo is so far removed from everything we have seen and experienced on an OTT platform, that one feels a little lost emotionally.
You enjoy Mirza, and you are left amazed by Amitabh Bachchan’s dedication to the craft and his crafty tricks of acting, but you don’t relate, you don’t associate and you do not connect with him emotionally. Baanke for all Ayushmann’s expertise in the genre of heartland cinema, is different but similar to most of his works. Making his presence, more of an accessory than the essence. It is almost like seeing Kohli refuse to bat in front of Sachin, which is kind of disappointing because two have both the actors in giving their best would be fireworks across the media. Perhaps he needed to take cues from the likes of Vijay Raaz and Brijendra Kala who maintain their perfection no matter who is sharing the frame with them. Along with the case, the cinematography by Avik Mukhopadhyay, the details that Shoojit and Juhi never miss incorporating and the background score by Shantanu Moitra are all fantastic, yet when it is all over the only thing you end up discussing is how could the film be better?