Gulabo Sitabo review: A satirical jibe on human flaws

At a time of a migrant crisis in India, Gulabo Sitabo emphasizes the relevance of home and shelter in everyone’s lives

Anurag Singh Bohra | New Delhi

A social satire or rather a dark comedy based on the backdrop of a Lucknow mansion redefines Indian cinema. Screenwriter Juhi Chaturvedi and director Shoojit Sarkar create a cinematic blend of Satyajit Ray, Basu Chatterjee, Sai Paranjpye, and Shyam Benegal style of filmmaking. 

‘Gulabo Sitabo,’ streaming on Amazon Prime starring Amitabh Bachchan and Ayushman Khurana in pivotal roles sets the parameters of unconventional storytelling in contrast with mainstream Bollywood movies. Chaturvedi and Sircar depict the Lucknow culture, mannerisms, dialect, and social setup with utmost realism. The commendable aspect of Sircar’s cinematic vision has always been never going by the rulebook of popular filmmaking yet retaining the novelty in terms of socio-cultural landscape showcased in his films. Chaturvedi known for stories on human relations has once again hit the bull’s eye with #GiboSibo while narrating complexities, dilemmas, cunningness, and vulnerabilities of the characters. 

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All actors on board playing their respective parts are an integral part of the plot and none of the roles look forced or unwanted. Even the Haveli (Urdu word for mansion) is a character in the storyline. The way Lucknow and its people have been shown in the most authentic way showcases the well-researched backdrop in the pre-production stage. Chaturvedi and Sircar seem to be well observant about life and India’s ground realities. Be it the social customs and cultural norms of Lucknow, corrupt Babudom, family disputes for property and subjugation of the downtrodden, simpletons by the powers that be, every aspect of the story is relatable in the Indian context.

At a time of pandemic and migrant crisis in India, #GiboSibo emphasizes the relevance of home and shelter in everyone’s lives. A bittersweet dark comedy that takes a satirical jibe on human weaknesses is a cinematic treat. 

Bachchan and Khurana yet again come up with power-packed engaging performances as Mirza and Baankey respectively. The scuffle and bantering between a tenant and a landlord have been portrayed by Bachchan and Khurana through histrionics widely meant for the mainstream audience. Although both actors do a decent job while playing their characters, Bachchan’s caricature of Mirza and Khurana’s boy next door seems repetitive similar to a few of his previous works. In spite of their versatility, the actors push it too hard to imitate their lines rather than responding in the act. But the actors are spot on with their expressions and body language in embracing the soul of the script. 

Vijay Raaz as Gyanesh Shukla and Brajesh Kala as Christopher Clark is remarkable and once again prove Bollywood has not been able to utilize the potential of these power-houses of talent. Raaz and Kala display a poignant act in each and every frame in perfectly written roles that amicably complement their artistry. However, the show-stealers are Srishti Shrivastava as Guddo and Farrukh Jaffar as Begum. Sircar has made the best use of Jaffar’s acting abilities. Post ‘Swades’ and ‘Peepli Live,’ Gulabo Sitabo would be considered one of the milestone performances in Jaffar’s filmography. Sharing screen space with Bachchan, Khurana, Raaz and other actors on set, Jaffar’s subtle nuances have a captivating impact on the viewers. 

The cinematography by Avik Mukhopadhyay is par excellence in retaining the engagement quotient throughout the film. Mukhopadhyay justifies the narrative by capturing Lucknow in its essence. Chandrashekhar Parajapati’s editing is crisp and concise. In the last 15-20 minutes, the story somehow appears to be dragged which has more to do with the screenwriter and filmmaker’s call. The music score by Shantanu Moitra goes well with the tone of Gulabo Sitabo. 

To back a project like #GiboSibo is a brave attempt by any producer and Lahiri – Kumar duo has done a fine job with cast and crew of the film. 

Chaturvedi and Sircar have delicately handled the human psyche and social behavior of Eastern UP through a satirical narrative. Issues such as an inter-religious affair, teenage hookups, infidelity, and adultery have been dealt with aesthetically devoid of any taboo or preachy sermons in the screenplay. Normalizing the dark realities and human flaws make every character in Gulabo Sitabo a must-watch for the students of cinema.

At a time of pandemic and migrant crisis in India, #GiboSibo emphasizes the relevance of home and shelter in everyone’s lives. A bittersweet dark comedy that takes a satirical jibe on human weaknesses is a cinematic treat. 

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