Shoojit Sircar’s Gulabo Sitabo, now out on Amazon Prime, is a clear case in point.
The story revolves around two major charchters — Mirza (Amitabh Bachchan), a cantankerous, greedy old man obsessed with Fatima Mahal, the 100-year-old palace he and his wife, Begum (Farrukh Jafar), own, and one of his tenants, Baankey Rastogi (Ayushmann Khurrana), a young man struggling to make enough to feed and educate his family comprising his mother and three younger sisters.
Rastogi is just one of the handful of people who live in the dilapidated and crumbling haveli. Each tenant pay less than Rs 100 as rent to the miserly Mirza, who is trying to peep out cash from anywhere. He’ll pawn off fixtures and belongings from the haveli and he’s not above a bit of stealing.
While Rastogi and Mirza are always at loggerheads, bickering and taking entertaining swipes at each other, they have a one thing in common, something they are both willing to fight to the death for — Fatima Mahal. As the two plot endlessly to get back at each other, with Mirza determined to evict Rastogi and the latter equally determined to live there forever, the future of the haveli itself is threatened, forcing the two enemies into a race to outwit the other in time.
Beautifully written characters, colourful dialogues and masterful cinematography make Gulabo Sitabo a pleasant watch. Bachchan delivers a touching performance as a bent-over, clever, but slow Mirza, whose greed for money is the main emotion through out the movie, yet being greedy he aims for small amount of Rs 100 or so. The heavy prosthetics, used as an element of caricature, push the actor out of Bachchan, who deftly uses his face and dramatically changed gait to bring nuance. Khurrana matches him with a toned-down rendition of the common man.
The real star of the story, however, is Fatima Mahal itself. Tucked away in one of the many old, forgotten pockets of Lucknow, Fatima Mahal is one of the many palaces, laden with history, that pepper the town.
Cinematographer Avik Mukhopadhyay lovingly shows off every corner and cranny of the ruin, in all its ruined glory. Its presence is felt even when it’s not on screen, thanks to Juhi Chaturvedi’s writing. It looms over the story, in the dialogues and in the eyes of the characters.
The movie does drag and stretches a bit to establish its plots and story.The jokes and quips will make you chuckle in the moment, the humour is nothing to write. It could have been cut. short and made it look more sharp and crispper.
Gulabo Sitabo is a simple pleasant movie to watch in these times and is surely worth a watch simply for the cinematography and characters.