Gulabo Sitabo – Movie Review

I googled “Gulabo Sitabo” and this fetched a site of “World Encyclopedia of Puppetry Arts” where it says that “Gulabo Sitabo” is a “traditional glove puppet theatre from Uttar Pradesh in north India. These puppets made of papier-mâché, dressed in colourful, shiny clothes and trinkets, are named after the two heroines who are represented in the show: Sitabo, the worn out, overworked spouse; and Gulabo, the scintillating mistress of the same man.

Amitabh Bachchan’s character is called Mirza Sheikh and and it is hard to tell what his motivations are. Anyway, he sells of his grand chandelier of great value for a pittance. He begs and collects money off a puppet artist while young girls dance to the puppet show. He steals light bulbs and bicycle ringers from his tenants and sells them for small change. The character is doing or showing a lot but nothing is been conveyed. In the end, whatever needed to be conveyed by showing it on screen is narrated via a rambling letter.

One thing did become clear thankfully by the end of the movie, that Mirza Sheikh has no sense of value or he makes no attempt to derive value out of whatever he possesses. He is just for small time sake. But why is he doing it? Greed for what? Why is he collecting money? And doing what with it? Is he spending it? Is he hoarding it?

The story never lets the audience entry into the predicaments of the characters. In Ayushmann Khurrana’s case, he does show some depth. His living in a joint family with three unmarried sisters, his affair with a women who has clear goals in life in contrast to his muddled life. And finally his confrontation with Mirza which is where most of the good acting happens.

The movie is a thinking man’s nightmare. I expected Shoojit Sirkar’s “Piku” like movie. That movie too is written by Juhi Chaturvedi. I expected at least a good structure albeit some design fault. In the wikipedia, it’s revealed by film director Shoojit Sirkar….”As soon as I read the script, I shared it with Mr Bachchan and Ayushmann at the same time. I thought it would take some time to develop and take it forward, but everyone was so enthusiastic to work on this script, they figured out their dates and here we are…” Well, here we are with a half baked story and screenplay. If Shoojit and Juhi intended to develop it why not go on with it. Did you expect Bachchan and Khurrana to do that for you?

The movie is held on by performances. Amitabh Bachchan as Mirza Sheikh is simply amazing. I have grown up seeing Bachchan as romantic action hero through 1970’s and 1980’s and now I see him as a wizened old man. I mean, this man will go down as the most prolific and versatile actor of all times.

Against him is Ayushmann Khurrana as Baankey Rastogi. He is a good competent actor but after seeing him through Dum Laga ke.., Bala, etc., etc., his performance is predictable and repetitive. Nevertheless he held it against Bachchan but it’s not like Bachchan vs Rajesh Khanna a la Anand.

One find of this movie is Srishti Shrivastava as Guddo. Right from the first scene onwards she exudes the quality of an accomplished actress. In the story there were several occasions and potential to develop this character. I felt she might usher a turning point and will be key at denouement and resolution. Alas, that was no to be. But good luck to you.

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