Gulabo Sitabo

Merely assembling a bunch of local characters and putting them in a dilapidated ‘haveli’ with its tottering walls, arched doorways and large windows does not make a compelling film.  It seems the script of Gulabo Sitabo was crafted sitting in Mumbai and then planted on the location of Lucknow. It is like picking up an English thriller and filming it in Jalandhar or Rajkot. The story of Gulabo Sitabo revolves around an old decaying ‘haveli’ in old Lucknow and the machinations of an old man Mirza, portrayed by Amitabh Bachchan with an oversized prosthetic get up.

 Besides,’ Lucknow ‘, which is the background of this film, does not live in the physical remnants of the city, but lies behind these decaying walls well entrenched inside the flirtatious minds and malleable hearts of the people, who live in these spaces.  The soul of ‘Lucknow’ lies in its way of life- the ‘ganjing’, the shayari, the ghazal, the Awadhi folk songs, the perfumes, the chat and the ‘pehle aap’  culture laced with the aromatic smell of  kababs and biryani  served with  pan ‘giloris’, wrapped in silver foils.

 Gulabo Sitabo, in that sense, is a lightweight film resting on a weak script. Even powerful actors like Amitabh Bachchan and Ayushman Khurana could not make it compelling enough for most of the audiences. It seems the film was majorly banking on the love of audience for the charm of Lucknavi culture. But a film, first and foremost is a ’ compelling story ‘ and location, performance, production design only play a supporting role. The fragile grey walls of an old decrepit haveli with gaping holes cannot carry an entire film on its shoulders. This film does not give you any ‘wow’ moments and what stay back with you is just the get up and the character of Mirza. I wish the role of Mirza  was etched a little more to make this character  an unforgettable one.

In spite of these weaknesses, the film sails through resting on two powerful pillars- one that of the nuanced performance of Amitabh Bachhan and the second, the spirited performance of not so famous local actors of Lucknow led by Farrukh Jaffer (Begum), Shrishti Srivastava (Guddi), Sri Prakash Bajpai (Pandeyji), Sandeep Yadav (Security guard), Sunil Kumar Verma (Mishraji) Poornima Sharma (Fauzia), Udayveer Singh  (Munna Saxena), Poonam Mishra (Mishrain), Archana Shukla (Susheela) and the doctor-turned-lawyer Zia Ahmad Khan .Keep it up gang of Lucknow !!

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O P Srivastava

A banker-turned filmmaker based in Mumbai. India.

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