Screenwriter Juhi Chaturvedi, director Shoojit Sircar’s sitcom, a satirical take on human greed for land grabs your imagination
Rating: 4 / 5
It’s not just humans but animals, too, are protective of their territory. But when greed takes over and humans spar like animals, these territorial tussles are a sight to watch. Many a times, they take a violent turn. Thankfully, there’s no blood spilled in director Shoojit Sircar’s Gulabo Sitabo , Screenwriter Juhi Chaturvedi has penned another slice-of-life drama, this one a satirical take on the human greed for land.
Just like the squabbling puppets Gulabo and Sitabo, landlord Mirza [Amitabh Bachchan] is at loggerheads with his defaulter tenant Baankey Rastogi [Ayushmann Khurrana]. Baankey’s family has been living for ages in Lucknow’s Fatima Mahal and astonishingly, still paying a rent of Rs30 per month. In fact, Baankey and his siblings were born in the rented dilapidated mansion. Well, if he was the rightful owner, then Mirza (78) would have evicted Baankey and other tenants, but the old mansion is the legal property of his much older wife Fatima Begum [Farrukh Jafar]. Besides, the chakkiwala (miller) Rastogi is in no mood to leave the rented mansion without a fight.
Though a dispute between a landlord and his tenant, this territorial tussle attracts other greedy players too. Inevitably, there’s a two-faced lawyer – Christopher Clarke (Bijendra Kala). Given that the dilapidated mansion is nearly 100 years old, it can’t escape the hawk eyes of Gyanesh Shukla [Vijay Raaz), an officer from the state archaeological department.
The sitcom is backed by Chaturvedi’s astute writing that subtly exposes the human greed. The easy-pace narrative has minimal background score and the performances of the leads bring the house down.
Khurrana plays another variant of the common man chipping in with another extraordinary performance. Unlike his previous social comedies, Khurrana’s character doesn’t really carry a larger social message. Baankey is simply a man struggling to keep the roof over his head. The threat of a family losing shelter is scary, but your not fully empathetic towards Baankey. Like Mirza, Baankey, too, is filled with greed. Hailing from a traditional family, he believes he alone can save his family from being displaced. Baankey has no faith in his sister Guddo [Sristhi Shrivastava], who is more smarter than him. He has a slight lisp, that’s new for Khurrana but he chips in with another commanding performance.
Mirza, on the other hand, is a self-centered, insecured miserly grumpy old man. The name’s Mirza but he has no sweet conversations with his wife Fatima. Though not cruel, but Mirza lacks empathy. He’s largely lost in his thoughts and frail desires. In Piku , Bachchan wanted to cling on to his ancestral home, while here, he wouldn’t mind selling or prefer to live all alone in the mansion. The make-up is not very compelling, and Bachchan takes a while to simmer into his character. But once he does, the veteran leaves you floored.
It’s not just Big B, but the other veteran Farrukh Jafar (86), too, steals the show. At 95, it is difficult for Fatima Begum (Jafar) to stand on her feet for long, but she hasn’t lost her authority, even through moments of dementia. The old lady chides, “Don’t you say that or else I’ll complain to [late Prime Minister Jawaharlal] Nehru ji. The lack of any chemistry between Bachchan and Jafar was precisely what the doctor ordered.
Sristhi Shrivastava has an interesting character that busts the stereotype around small town women. Child artiste Annanya Dwivedi is adorable as Neetu, Baankey’s youngest sister. Neetu is your quintessential innocent loose-lipped sibling. You are left embarrassed but the innocent face of the child makes you ignore her folly.
Vijay Raaz is exemplary as the dubious Archaeological Survey of India officer but Bijendra Kala is a misfit for a Christopher Clarke. The are few drag moments early on, but the constant bilateral squabbling and the subsequent unilateral chaos is laced with humour.
“Supreme Court Dilli mein hai, aur yeh Lucknow, yahan jiski lathi usiki bhains,” Baankey warns Mirza. Unfortunately, for Mirza, there are one too many powerful folks wielding their sticks around his property.
Landlord, tenants, sparring kins, lovers, a Gulabo Sitabo simply mirrors the ‘kahaani ghar ghar ki’ [every household’s tale] .
Gulabo Sitabo is currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video.