Gulabo Sitabo [2020]: A tale of the Scrooges and the old mansion

What matters in life?. From a very young age as a child to a very old age as an elderly person, Life is consumed through the emotions that the tangible and intangible things have to offer. Even in a most difficult situation in life, humans, sometimes, resist themselves to let go of such things that bring them peace. An emotional cord is formed between a thing and a heart and being perceived them as a memory rather putting a price tag on it. We wouldn’t want to pawn it or sell it.

Gulabo Sitabo, directed by Shoojit Sircar and writen by Juhi Chaturvedi, depicts many characters who are not ideal and not the exemplars on how to value things in their lives. Amitabh Bachchan, as a miserly old man, Gulabo, doesn’t go by a day without costing the peace of his tenant, Baankey (Ayushman Khurrana). With his wonky knees and coercing tactics to always hold an upper hand, he tirelessly gives troubles to Baankey as he refuses to increase his rents. Baankey and his family of mother and 3 sisters, on the other hand, find ways to escape this measly rent to instigate Gulabo’s frustration even more. Ayushman, Director Sircar and Writer Chaturvedi join together after Vicky Donar (2012) to collaborate together for a fine product. Dir Sircar collaborates with writer Chaturvedi after Piku, October films that has hyped the expectation.

On one hand, Gulabo waits for his wife Begam, who is the owner of this old mansion, to die of her old age to get this mansion to himself. On the other hand, tenants, who pay measly rent for a place in the hot city, Lucknow, manage not to leave this place anytime soon. The fight, between these two sides on who gets the mansion or a better deal at the mansion, is the heart of the storyline.

We see Amitabh as a man who is not emotionally attached with any things in his life. He doesn’t hold anything dear to him and just sells it. He doesn’t argue for a better deal to get out of any such transaction toos. He just sells it and is content with how much of a money he gets out of it. Primarily because, he hasn’t earned it in the first place to argue a better deal. And also, he just wants to transform anything he has touched upon into money. He even sells few coins of money to get some money out of it. He never removes the “lens” he wears to view the world as something with a price tag on it.

Ayushman, with his slightly bulging midriff under his shirt and uncombed hair, comes as an young man who refuse to leave a place with measly rent. It’s a tale of various characters who think only of themselves. It’s not preaching moral values aloud but you get the point. If Gulabo Sitabo were a book, it doesn’t seem to have contain any elements for a fun, surprising, pleasant read. But, the way, it is made to the screen, the illustration is what manage to tug the heartstrings a bit. An intrigue is truly established with this “no stars only characters” narration but it’s not tempting enough to devour it. The film is parched for something interesting to happen on screen at various moments. Its dry pace makes it difficult to stay hooked to the tale. Also, the film is nothing to be exasperated about too. It’s still a warm, great and an aesthetically impressive story.

An old man, who looks to purge everything he has eyed on, drives the narration on its course. He is a sign for and representation of selfishness that lives in humans’ darkened mind. The story doesn’t have any one selfless person in it to save the day for ideals. All of them just look for ways to win, for their own personal gain. A complicated emotional connection, with the place where we live and with the things we own, is divulged Gulabo Sitabo amusingly. It’s meaningful when it unravels not just the greed that’s associated with mankind but also the fear of facing something other than the greed, which is compassion. They fear of being someone else for it might mean they lose what they know of themselves all along. They identify themselves only with this greed and nothing else.

The Socio-economic-political backdrop is very subtle in the story. It is made in a way that you always know to focus when the subtlety appears on the frame. Be it the dilapidated condition of the building where our characters live, the unsanitary environment that people live in crowded area in hotspots and when the government “choose” to care about things when it wants to. It clings on to these details without going off course from this Gulabo-Sitabo fight. And the last scene, when you see Gulabo leaves with a blue balloon clutching between his fingers, you look at him with a complicated confusion. After all, Is he gonna take this balloon as a souvenir or Is he gonna sell this balloon too for some measly coins?

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