Directors: Shoojit Sircar
Producer: Ronnie Lahiri
A roadside performer puts on a show with puppets Gulabo and Sitabo.
Close by, in the large and dilapidated Fatima Mahal, you can’t decipher who’s the real puppeteer as greedy 78-year-old Mirza has an ongoing war with tenant Baankey. And Mirza’s only interest in his ailing Begum, older than him by 17 years and the real owner of Fatima Mahal, is the property she’ll leave behind for him.
With story, screenplay and dialogues by Juhi Chaturvedi, director Shoojit Sircar’s chief source of humour is the owner-tenant one-upmanship especially Mirza’s cheapskate antics. Mirza steals light bulbs, sells the mansion’s chandelier on the sly and gets dizzy every time there’s mention of big bucks coming his way. More money than he can count on his craggy fingers.
Also Read – Khuda Haafiz – Movie Review
There are a few moments of wit in Baankey’s family. A bratty younger sister who speaks up at the wrong time and a spirited Guddo who betters her brother in brains and spunk.
Precisely one scene suggests Mirza’s heart can melt when Baankey’s family puts on an act of being down-and-out to avoid paying the rent. But it’s more for comic value.
Baankey’s relationship with girlfriend Fauzia is sketchy and not romantic, making the young hero more of a loser.
But the general message that all the world’s a stage and everybody out there is a puppet keeps it real, life is no fantasy.
I do have a beef with a few parts of the writing which tries hard to wrest hearty chuckles from the premise. For instance, a whole scene on Begum getting mehndi applied in her hair. But for the rest of the film, Begum has shining silver hair, there’s no glimmer of mehndi anywhere. So was it written only to fetch a smile?
Then there are other tenants too but they don’t seem to carp and snipe at Mirza and they remain bystanders.
I also believe that there’s an overall lack of empathy for any of the lead characters.
That everybody has a hidden agenda for Fatima Mahal is pretty clear and doesn’t catch you by surprise. What does is the end twist to the puppet show.
And what is clear is that Shoojit Sircar is all for women power, the one enduring thrust of the film. So let’s pump the air and give Gulabo Sitabo a 3* rating.