Sachin Tendulkar or Virat Kohli? Tom Hanks or Christian Bale? Amitabh Bachchan or Ayushmann Khurrana? If we ask people to pick one over the other, I don’t think we would ever get a unanimous answer. However, if we ask people if they would like to see either of the above-mentioned geniuses sharing the same stage, the answer would be a unanimous – YES! Good news, because that’s exactly what we got to witness thanks to filmmaker Shoojit Sircar.
Gulabo Sitabo is Bollywood’s first major film that had a direct-to-digital release on Amazon Prime on June 12th 2020. Directed by Shoojit Sircar, this is a completely character-driven chronicle narrating the cat & mouse game between a nuisance landlord Mirza (Amitabh Bachchan) and his freeloader tenant Baankey (Ayushmann Khurrana) who doesn’t even pay Rs. 30 (less than one US dollar) in rent. The drama unfolds when they both decide to take (twisted) legal help and the wheels fall off thereafter.
Shoojit Sircar has the unique ability to capture beauty in ordinary aspects of life. Set in the rich and rickety backdrop of Lucknow, the brilliance of this film is seen in every frame – be it the rustic dilapidated buildings or the unrecognizable makeup or unmistakeable body language by all the characters. Words can’t describe the brilliance of legendary actor Amitabh Bachchan, who plays a scratchy and self-center old man whose goal is to extract money every opportunity he gets. So much so, that he even patiently waits for his wife to die so that he can inherit the building. There are few actors that can go toe-to-toe with a legend like the Big B and I think Ayushmann Khurrana is one such actor. With his failing love life and inability to provide for his sisters’ education, Ayushmann Khurrana is caught in a rat race who is seen cribbing about almost everything. His ability to play any character has never been more convincing this his role. Even supporting actors such as Vijay Raaz (Archaeological officer), Brijendra Kala (Lawyer Clark), and Srishti Shrivastava (Guddo) have given fabulous performances.
This movie is a testament to the fact that a successful film is an artistic amalgamation of a skillful ensemble. The impeccable acting of Amitabh Bachchan and Ayushmann Khurrana along with the talented supporting cast following the elaborated script of Juhi Chaturvedi and directed by one of the few contemporary directors in Indian cinema Shoojit Sircar.
Although I loved this film, I am not sure if it will garner universal appreciation because many of us are conditioned to appreciate larger-than-life stories instead of enjoying the beauty of a simple story. We all are quick to marvel an actor’s somersault than admiring an actors’ body-language to fit a character and yet both are finer talents. According to me, this film is what will differentiate cinema lovers (one who would invest time and go to film festivals to devour movies of different aesthetics) and film lovers (one who would love to go theatre every Friday to get entertained). If you like Gulabo Sitabo, chances are you belong to the first category.
Gulabo Sitabo, Paatal Lok, Panchayat… I think it is fair to say that Amazon prime India is on its way to achieving the same status as HBO in Hollywood, i.e. premium content! I hope other OTT players are paying close attention 🙂
Reviewed by Puneet Ruparel