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Gulabo Sitabo Movie Review: Amitabh Bachchan, Ayushmann Saving Grace In Killjoy Comedy  

Gulabo Sitabo(Amazon)

Starring Amitabh Bachchan, Farrukh Jafar, Ayushmann Khurrana, Vijay Raaz

Directed  by Shoojit Sircar

Rating: **(2 stars)

 How do I put this  politely? Gulabo Sitabo is  as funny as  molar surgery, or maybe  even less  because when  you are watching  a man  helpless  under the dentist’s drill his helpless anxiety renders itself to a kind of  sadistic hilarity  in the audience.

But what if that man under the drill is you,dear audience? That’s how  I felt watching Gulabo Sitabo. Trapped. Miserable. Helpless…. Shoojit  Sircar who  has made some of the  better  films of recent years,  seems  to have  devised a new  method of making  our  quarantined  life more  miserable.Pinning us down to his satirical   exigencies  Sircar gives us  a film about proprietorial greed  that  misses  its mark by  a wide margin.

To put it  bluntly, Gulabo Sitabo is   just not  funny. I assume this killjoy comedy is   supposed to be   funny. Because  everyone talks in that casual  know-all eye-rolling  fashion which  cartoonstrips are  famous  for. Except that  the joke here is  on us.

Coming out  of  the unnerving  experience  I felt like that cuckolded spouse  who thought himself  to be in a  perfect  marriage until he caught his  spouse red-handed.

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Cheated and betrayed?  Yes, all of that. But also a bit  sullied  and compromised  by  wallowing in   the squalor  of  the  protagonist and his  crumbling  haveli. Both have seen better days. Mr Bachchan has  been put  into  a lot of  sticky situations in his times  ,but none  as  abysmally non-redemptive as  this  character.

 Bachchan’s  Mirza  is  monstrously  miserly.It’s not about counting  your  pennies. It’s also  about looking like you save  on  soap  money.  When  Mirza  suspects his wife  will  soon die  he bargains with the shopkeeper  for her  kafan. Not just miserly, but also quite dirty in  appearance and dialogue,the  doddering despicable  Mirza and  his   crumbling  haveli are captured by  Avik Mukhopadhyay’s mesmeric camera images in a swoop  of  squalour suggesting poverty-porn.

  In one sequence where Ayushmann Khurrana playing Mr Bachchan’s lisping  dimwitted  tenant Baanke suggests that Mirza adopt him to save  the  haveli,  Ayushamann angrily snatches a bedsheet from Mirza claiming  it to be his.

“Yeah yeah take it I’ve  farted on it the whole day,” mumbles  Mirza.

Rather than  amused, this  concession to crassness made me  very  angry.Surely, there were   more tactful ways of showing  the character’s crassness specially when played by an actor as  classy as Mr Bachchan? Still  Mr Bachchan wades through the  slushy satire in slouched splendour.  Mumbling profanities and screaming  insults,  Mirza has got to be the most unpleasant  character  ever played by  Mr Bachchan. Shooing girls out of a rickshaw because they haven’t his rent, waiting for his wife to die  so that he can legally inherit her  mansion…Mr Bachchan  plunges  into  making this vile character  enjoyable, but is repeatedly  failed  by a script and  direction that seem to construct a  compressed television serial rather than a crisp enjoyable  feature film on the miser and his comeuppance.

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Ayushmann is given to  mouth his  dialogues  with  a lisp that comes and  goes, just like  the  fugitive  humour of this shambolic  satire. Nonetheless Ayushman,  like his character who won’t vacate his rented abode, remains stubbornly  in character, sullen,silly and  sad,

There  is not one likeable character  in the film barring perhaps Bachchan’s wily Beghum played  by  Farrukh Jafar. 17 years his senior, we are told repeatedly probably because  the actress  chosen to be  Mr Bachchan’s wife looked older than him. The Beghum apart,  there  are no  important women characters except  a feisty promiscuous  girl named Guddo(Shristhi Shrivastava) a  self-serving   tenant  who  is  sexually so promiscuous  she  seems to be begging to be called a  slut.In one  sequence she  is seen coming out of hiding with a  man  fixing the belt  of his trousers.We  got that, Mr Sircar.

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Another  woman whom Khurrana’s Baankey dates, dumps him and shows  up with her moneyed  husband at the  end at his aate ki chakki asking for organic flour. Bitch. I am talking  about life. What else!

The  humour is  way too  savage to be  funny .Everything from an old dying woman’s thumb impression to a  character’s pyorrhea is milked for  mirth. But  sorry, Gulabo Sitabo is just not funny  and a huge disappointment from the director  of  Vicky Donor , Piku and October. At one point in the  battle that ensues between  an archaeological department employee(Vijay Raaz) and  a cunning lawyer(Brajendra Kala) Mr Bachchan’s Mirza comments that  greed can’t kill a humanbeing. But be warned. Boredom can.

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