Shoojit Sircar initiated the template of weaving a story around old ancestral houses through PIKU and has taken it to a new dimension injecting the conundrums of deceit that have become a leitmotif around old decrepit buildings dominating the landscape of old cities like Kolkata and Lucknow with GULABO SITABO.
A film like GULABO SITABO which has been released through the OTT platform across 200 different countries is a stark reminder about the state of affairs pertaining to housing sector in the country, having a queer pitch in cities of Kolkata and Lucknow and one needs to have an experience of the situation to understand the struggles that the owners and the tenants eke out on a daily basis. One needed a towering personality like Big B to etch out that daily struggle of existence undertaking a tough balancing act between eking out a living and also fighting a daily struggle with the tenants for rent and enhancement of the rent as well!
With such being the story line, and some viewers have commented about the slowness of the film, such an idea needs to be built up through the characters and therefore the choice of the actors to enact different roles in the films also has profoundly added to the narrative of GULABO SITABO.
For the uninitiated, GULABO SITABO is a part of the cultural landscape of Lucknow through the art of puppetry made of Papier-mâché and adorned with colorful clothes and is a depiction of social reality of cultural landscape of Lucknow during the times of Nawab, GULABO being the boring and dull wife, and SITABO the seductress mistress. Shoojit Sircar and Juhi Chaturvedi-writer of the film have made the argument stand on its head by depicting Big B as the GULABO and the discreet lover of his wife to whom she bequeaths the property and elopes finally SITABO aka Kallan Miya who makes his screen presence only in the fag end.
One is reminded of the RAGDARBARI twist- the famous book written by Sri Lal Shukla- in GULABO SITABO, where the common man be it the character enacted by Big B and Ayushmann Khurana and his ilk who get firmly entrapped in the machinations of the lower rung administrative machinery, be it at the court premises or in the offices of the Archeological Survey.
Perhaps it is for the first time in a distant memory where a character who pursues activity of making wheat flour has been shown with prominence in the form of Ayushmann Khurana enacting the role and underlining how such outlets formed a part of the social and cultural landscape.
Women Empowerment has also been touched in a stealth manner in the form of three sisters of Ayushmann Khurana’s character undertaking studies while Ayushmann Khurana has to run the house. Hindi cinema per se with such situations generally would show the sister working and struggling to eke out living for the family, while the brother would be whiling the time away, but Shoojit Sircar has taken a different angle to it.
Expression and experimentation of sexuality in such kind of an existence as it is shown in GULABO SITABO is a striking underlining of the manner in which improvisations are being made by those who are the cusp of sexual desires to find solutions for the bodily needs. Besides there is a sense of chutzpah in experimentation with different number of partners without an inhibition. So, sex which was closeted in the cupboards is finding manifestation through pithed dialogues.
All in All, GULABO SITABO opens vista for more such expressions built on the crumbling edifices of structures that dominate the country side, socially and structurally and serves a subtle reminder to the authorities to bestow attention to them as they have the potential to address housing issues that country is facing. But for that to happen reforms need to be initiated in the courts and in the process of documentation. A tough act to ask for in a society of ours which still is a predominantly oral society?