As the world is changing around us from the immediate aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic and the ensuing lockdown, cinema, or at least its medium, too, is undergoing a sea change. We've now entered the era where movies of big stars like Amitabh Bachchan and Ayushmann Khurrana are seeing the light of day directly on OTT platforms, owing to pack of theatrical options. But, is their film, Gulabo Sitabo, a product of its times or a fortuitous way out given the situation? Does the first outing of these two marvellous actors, ingeniously cast opposite each other, turn out to be the cracking casting coup it's meant to be or an opportunity wasted? Well, the answer to the first question sadly leans toward the latter end. However, that's substantially compensated by the answer to the second query, which is a out-an-out casting triumph.
Scroll below to read my full Gulabo Sitabo review... What's it about
Amitabh Bachchan) and Baankey ( Ayushmann Khurrana) play neighbours constantly at loggerheads in Gulabo Sitabo, which we pretty much gathered in the trailer itself. The former plays the landlord of his wife's ancestral, rundown mansion while the latter and his family are one of his tenants. How circumstances with the archaeological department to declare the mansion a heritage site and Mirza's greed to capture it from his wife lead to both his and his tenants' (who pay pittance for rent) lives turning upside down, form the crux of the plot.
Amitabh Bachchan is the glue that binds Gulabo Sitabo together. Remove him and it'll disintegrate. From his diction, gait and posture to his ability to extract humour without seeming so and doing it while maintaining an excruciatingly difficult body language throughout the movie, not to mention under heavy prosthetics, will leave you awestruck as to how the thespian still finds new ways of leaving us awestruck after doing so for more than half a century.
Thankfully, Ayushmann Khurrana proves a worthy foil, or else it may have been too much for even the Mr. Bachchan to shoulder everything on his dropping shoulders. It isn't easy to shines with mannerisms, accent and dialogue delivery before the Big B, but Ayushmaan admirably pulls it off, where several accomplished actors have stumbled. Vijay Raaz,
Brijendra Kala, Srishti Shrivastava and the rest of the cast try their best to shine, but are saddled with roles that are just too poorly sketched. Only, Farrukh Jafar, as Mirza's 17-year older Begum, manages to leave an impression. Moving on from the performances; the first act sets things up interestingly while the last act salvages the hodgepodge that occurs in-between. What's not
Both Juhi Chaturvedi's screenplay and
Shoojit Sircar's direction barely pass muster. As mentioned earlier, it's Bachchan, Khurrana and the first and last acts that save it from crumbling. In fact, if the top and bottom of Gulabo Sitabo weren't as commendable as they are, the rest of the portions were mediocre enough to not be salvaged by two stellar actors alone.
Furthermore, the producers can count their lucky stars that this has released straight to OTT as there's precious little entertainment or engagement to hold the interest of an audience, regardless the target demographic. And the excuse of championing indie or artistic cinema doesn't cut it as such films have proven to be entertaining enough even for repeat viewing since the days of Govind Nihalani, Saeed Akhtar Mirza and Shyam Benegal. Sircar's own Badlapur is a prime example of it. Chandrashekhar Prajapati's editing needs to be sharper by as much as 25-30 minutes, Avik Mukhopadhyay's cinematography is tacky in places and barring Madari ka bandar, both the background score and songs by Shantanu Moitra, Shantanu Moitra and Anuj Garg leave a lot to be desire.
Take Amitabh Bachchan and Ayushmann Khurrana out of Gulabo Sitabo, especially the former, and there's precious little to hold your interest. Its OTT release seems more like a convenient quirk of fate to escape potential theatrical disappointment rather than a product of the times we live in. I'm going with 3/5 stars with 0.5 of that rating solely dedicated to the Big B's performance.
3 out of 5
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