Set in the elegant town of Lucknow, Gulabo Sitabo is a mournful ode to the forgotten royalty. Enter Mirza, the namesake husband of Begum Fatto. Mirza has waited all his life to become the owner of the haveli, Fatima Mahal. But in his way are two obstacles: Begum and all the stubborn tenants. The film navigates as Mirza uses every technique under the roof to gain ownership of the haveli.
The film is a melancholic tragic comedy. The pain and oppression of the poor is viewed with a heartbreaking empathy from an eerily hilarious perspective. The uneasiness of the cramped and dingy spaces and the desire to break out of it oozes through the frame. There is a deep understanding of the agony of a sole breadwinner trying to make the ends meet.
Shoojit Sircar and Juhi Chaturvedi, the director-writer duo who are fondly remembered for Piku, narrate an emotionally charged story. There is a tenderness in every frame. Juhi vows to look at UP from an unknown unseen perspective, that of an admirer.
The film makes a subtle commentary on man’s greed. It time and again reinstates the vanity of humans and their actions. Gulabo Sitabo is poetry in action. There is humour in misery. The mood of the film is largely grim and dull. Cinematographer, Avik Mukhopadhyay speaks volumes with his camera.
The film banks on its cast to uplift the sorrowful ode. Amongst the batch, a timeless Farrukh Jaffar steals the show with her commendable performance as Begum Fatto. The veteran plays all the tones with an unparalleled finesse. Amitabh Bachchan, the man who needs no introduction or critique, fulfills the high standards and expectations the viewer has from him. Ayushmann fades away in the sparkle of wonderful performances and poetic writing. He does what he’s supposed and nothing more.
Bijendra Kala, Vijay Raaz and Srishti Shrivastava do the heavy lifting and anchor the film for the most of it. All of them deliver outstanding performances and lift the film by multiple notches.
In one of the scenes, an archeology department official seals a house and takes a selfie with the notice board with an eerie enthusiasm. It is in these scenes that Gulabo Sitabo shines. The film features Kya Leke Aayo Jagme by Vinod Dubey, a song which questions the fundamentals of human existence. The music is apt and calming. Music director, Shantanu Moitra curates a wonderful soundtrack.
Gulabo Sitabo is one of the finest films we’ve seen this year. There is a soothing calmness in the sadness. The film will leave you with the satisfaction the first rain of the year gives.
Gulabo Sitabo is India’s first Prime Release.