"Gulabo Sitabo (Amazon Prime Video film)" | Satire served with Lakhnavi wit
‘Gulabo Sitabo’ is positioned as a comedy, but the film would not fulfil definition of the genre in the traditional Bollywood sense. This is not first day-first show LOL stuff and it would seem a prudent move to launch this refined whiff on OTT.
This film is not solely about Amitabh Bachchan and Ayushmann Khurrana, either. To savour ‘Gulabi Sitabo’, people need to understand that the film is as much about the quirks of ‘Lakhnavi’ life.
The film shows correlation between three protagonists - ‘Fatima Mahal’; ‘Sitabo’, the overworked spouse and ‘Gulabo’, the smart paramour, who mostly knows how to get her way for nothing.
Amitabh is cast as haggard old ‘Mirza’, obsessed about shielding his mansion from a series of people who have a shark’s gaze on the sprawling but crumbling property. Ayushmann is ‘Bankey’, one of ‘Mirza’s tenants who has not paid rent (a princely sum of Rs 30) for months.
Without giving away spoilers, things come to a pass between ‘Mirza’ and ‘Bankey’ that both end up trying to make some fast fortune off the ‘haveli’.
People also need to understand oddities of ‘Lakhnavi’ lingo, which leaves them somewhat bemused because they are now provided with subtitles in 15 languages. Stick to watching it in the Hindi/Urdu original version, or skip it altogether.
Bachchan’s heavy prosthetics may not be something that would floor audience in any away, but the veteran makes up for the bizarre makeover with flawless body language to define ‘Mirza’, an old man weighed down by age who would draw sympathy at the first glance, only to incite aversion the moment people fathom his unabashed greed.
It must have been a mammoth task for Ayushmann to stand up to such a formidable act but the new-generation star simply brings out his best. He lives out the ‘atta chakkiwaala’ ‘Bankey’ only too authentically, down to a heartland accent highlighted by a lisp, and supplemented by the right physical attributes.
Yet, ‘Gulabo Sitabo’ is not just about its two lead actors. Vijay Raaz as the arrogant archaeological officer is comically evil. Brijendra Kala adds exceptionally to the plot with his wily lawyer act. Srishti Shrivastava as ‘Bankey’s sister ‘Guddo’ has to be the find of the film. If you missed noting her as ‘Albina’ in ‘Gully Boy’, chances are you won’t forget her in a rush after ‘Gulabo Sitabo’.
Finally, you have Farrukh Jafar as ‘Fatima Begum’, ‘Mirza’s wife and the cleverly underplayed ‘hero’ of the film. She personifies the voiceless ‘Fatima Mahal’ and, almost on cue perhaps, speaks very little all through. Few actors in recent times have exuded such complete screen presence through sheer silence as the 80-plus veteran does in this film.