Monthly Archives: June 2020

Gulabo Sitabo Movie Review: Amitabh Bachchan beats Ayushmann Khurrana. The audience wins

Gulabo Sitabo Movie Review: Shoojit Sircar’s Gulabo Sitabo, starring Amitabh Bachchan and Ayushmann Khurrana, dropped on Amazon Prime Video on June 12.

Movie Name: Gulabo Sitabo
Cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Ayushmann Khurrana
Director: Shoojit Sircar

Fatima Mahal is no Taj Mahal. It most certainly was built with love, but right now it serves but one purpose – to serve. A hundred years give or take, Fatima Mahal houses Mirza (Amitabh Bachchan) and his Begum, and a bunch of tenants unofficially led by Baankey (Ayushmann Khurrana). Mirza and Baankey’s nokjhok, as the makers told us repeatedly, holds the whole plot together. Yet, it is not the central point of Shoojit Sircar’s Gulabo Sitabo – Fatima Mahal is.

Mirza wants to throw Baankey out. Baankey won’t leave. Mirza decides to sell the haveli instead, if that helps. He has to cross out those extended family members who could lay claim on the property before he sells it. In addition, Fatima Mahal’s 100-year-old legacy has by now attracted the archaeological department. Like little school children, all these atrangi characters flutter around Fatima Mahal, and she simply watches. A brick falls here, a railing drops there, she continues to stand witness to it all.

Greed is an excellent driver. Mirza’s greed, very evident, drove him to marry a woman 17 years older to him. “Aapne unme kya dekha?” and Mirza quips, “Haveli dekhi.” He is 78 now, old, frail, stooping under the weight of his once tall stature, yet his greed doesn’t leave him. He survives on pennies he gets to pick from Begum’s baksa, sells chandeliers for pocket money, Begum squarely tells him, “Apni shakal ab kafi dinon tak mat dikhana,” and he almost happily obliges.

Baankey, on the other hand, runs a chakki (small-scale wheat mill) feeding the mouths of his three growing sisters and a widowed mother. He can ride a bike and buy a microwave, but ghar ka bhada will remain Rs 30 a month. Rent-control areas in any old part of this country, no matter the city – Lucknow or Mumbai or Kolkata – will have such bickering landlord-tenant jodis. In that, Shoojit has yet again picked a subject so simple and everyday, that you would have thought they couldn’t have been made into a full-fledged feature film. Shoojit surprises you yet again. But then, not really.
Amitabh Bachchan and Ayushmann Khurrana coming together for the first time was a big deal. But Bachchan’s Mirza trumps Ayushmann’s Baankey. Bachchan’s prosthetic make-up, especially the nose, sticks out like a sore thumb in parts, but the maverick more than makes up for it with his acting and more importantly, his body language. Ayushmann’s Baankey, unfortunately, oscillates between the Punjabi munda that he is and the Lucknavi that he is supposed to be. And then there is the Lucknavi twang. There’s so much diction can do.

Bachchan’s perfect Urdu – from the epiglottis and all – leaves Baankey miles behind him. Baankey, in fact, has a lisp, and we’re not sure if it was a character requirement or was it put to shroud the actor’s shortcoming, especially stark in contrast to Bachchan. Nonetheless, Ayushmann the actor is so resilient that he doesn’t let that bog his performance down.

Unlike Fatima Mahal’s walls, literally crumbling, failing to support its enormous legacy, the supporting cast of Gulabo Sitabo outdo the lead cast. Brijendra Kala as the astute lawyer Christopher Clarke, a property-dispute specialist Mirza seeks the help of, jo khane mein sirf lunch aur dinner letein hai because that’s how ‘English’ he is, is excellent. Vijay Raaz’s Gyanesh Shukla, an archaeology department official adamant to declare Fatima Mahal a heritage site, who suffers from arthritis and pyorrhea, and the occasional character slip, goes beyond what the script might have said. There are legit moments when you know the script could not have written this expression or that hand gesture down; and Raaz adds a dash of masala to this steaming pot of biryani.

Srishti Shrivastava doesn’t need to be introduced as the girl you saw in Gully Boy; she stands on firm ground, at least for us internet-content consumers. She brings her TVF-style madness into Guddo, Baankey’s graduate sister, and Shoojit’s rumbling Fatima Mahal. But Farukh Jaffer as Mirza’s Begum, 95 in the film right now, is par excellence.

Juhi Chaturvedi, credited for story and dialogues, truly deserves credit. Shantanu Moitra’s music adds a certain melancholy that compliments Fatima Mahal’s texture. You will find yourself humming Madari Ka Bandar in the kitchen while you sip that cup of morning tea. Yet we missed Swanand Kirkire’s throaty voice. Tochi Raina and Anuj Garg do a good job, but you can’t but click your tongue. Tch!

Gulabo Sitabo was supposed to have a theatre release. But owing to the coronavirus crisis, went for an OTT premiere instead. It works in Shoojit’s favour that this film renders itself beautifully to small-screen viewing.

Sushant Singh Rajput saves you while Drive drives you crazy

Drive, which released on Netflix last year, starred Sushant Singh Rajput and Jacqueline Fernandez in lead roles. It was directed by Tarun Mansukhani.

Starting from India Gate, crossing Chhatarpur to a third far-off location, a race is taking place at the heart of New Delhi, infamous for its perpetual traffic jams.

Gears are set in and zoom goes the drivers, covering this never-ending distance in the blink of an eye. Of course, our leading lady Jacqueline Fernandez wins this fictitious and fictional race, steps out of the car in a thigh-high slit skirt, high heels and a top with a plunging neckline to celebrate the moment. For a good two minutes, we see Jacqueline show off her smooth hair and curves, with the car as her prop in the background.

We get it. She is sexy, but director Tarun Mansukhani thinks his audience won’t understand the subtext. So, he has a side character spew it out for us, “Samajh nahi aata, tum zayada sexy ho ya tumhari driving.”

Drive starts on this unconvincing note and becomes more improbable thereafter. A gang of thieves, headed by Tara (Jacqueline), hatches a plan, engineered by Arjun (Sushant Singh Rajput), to rob black money stored in the Rashtrapati Bhavan.

To be honest, even if implausible, the plot feels fresh on paper. We have seen Danny Ocean chalk out convincing plans to rob a casino with his team of well-equipped thieves. Tarun takes things a bit further and decides to rob the President’s home. Sure, why not?

We thought maybe, just maybe, Tarun, who is also the writer of the film, has penned a believable, if not extraordinary, heist in Drive. We couldn’t be more wrong.

Drive goes off track right when the team starts planning the robbery. To enter the Rashtrapati Bhavan, they have to get permits from 64 departments, which they manage to get in 24 hours. And like a walk in the park, the team enters and exits Rashtrapati Bhavan multiple times before the robbery, without so much as being recognised.

And then there is a master thief named King in between, who leaves his mark and a clue to his next robbery, every time he steals from someone. The end result, a tasteless mix of Ocean’s Eleven and Dhoom 2.

What makes the film more bizarre is the CGI effects used in place of actual car racing. This makes the film look cheap and nothing more than a bad video game.

In between all this ruckus, we see Sushant Singh Rajput as a glimmer of hope. In the film, he is excited to pull off the biggest heist of the country, as he flashes that million-dollar smile for his audience.

The scene where he calls a policeman and tricks him into abandoning his car makes us laugh-out-loud. Not minding the senselessness of the film, Sushant lets us know he is having fun and he wants us to do the same.

Before Drive, Sushant proved his mettle with remarkable performances in films like MS Dhoni: The Untold Story, Kai Po Che, Detective Byomkesh Bakshy, Shuddh Desi Romance and more. Drive doesn’t even come close to Sushant’s other films. The actor, however, didn’t let that show in his performance in this Dharma Productions film. He played his part with much conviction and enthusiasm and gave his fans one more film to cherish.

Unfortunately, Drive was Sushant’s last film (Chhichhore released before Drive and is his last theatre release) before he breathed his last on June 14. His next, Dil Bechara, is yet to hit the screens. We have another chance to see this untamed actor come alive on screen, just one more time.

Gulabo Sitabo writer Juhi Chaturvedi accused of plagiarism, makers call allegation baseless

Late writer Rajeev Agarwal’s son, Akira, has accused Juhi Chaturvedi of plagiarising his father’s story for Gulabo Sitabo. The makers released a statement defending Juhi.

Writer Juhi Chaturvedi has been accused by late writer Rajeev Agarwal’s son, Akira, of plagiarising his father’s story for her upcoming film Gulabo Sitabo, a claim the production house behind the project termed “baseless.”

Juhi has written the story, screenplay and dialogues for the Shoojit Sircar directorial, featuring megastar Amitabh Bachchan and actor Ayushmann Khurrana. It is backed by Rising Sun Films.

Rajeev had submitted his story in Cinestaan India’s Storyteller Script Contest, of which Juhi was a jury member, claimed Akira’s lawyer Rizwan Siddiquee.

The story was submitted in March 2018 and shortlisted. On June 28 the same year, the final script was also submitted for the contest and all jury members had full access to the same, said Siddiquee.

According to the lawyer, Akira was shocked to find similarities between Gulabo Sitabo and his father’s story when he saw the trailer of the film. He claimed the story, background and theme of the movie looked similar to his father’s script.

In a statement issued on Saturday, Rising Sun Films said Juhi’s concept for Gulabo Sitabo was registered in 2018, much before the contest.

“Furthermore, Juhi never received a copy of the supposedly copied script. This has been independently confirmed by the script writing contest organisers as well.

“Our film’s story is different from that sent out in the notice. It is surprising how grave allegations are being made solely on the basis of a 2 minute 41 second trailer,” the banner said in the statement.

Siddiquee said Akira approached Screenwriters Association (SWA) for mediation, which then asked Juhi to submit her script.

Gulabo Sitabo plagiarism allegations: This is my original work

Gulabo Sitabo writer Juhi Chaturvedi rubbished plagiarism allegations and said that the film’s script is her original work. Gulabo Sitabo is set to be premiered on Amazon Prime Video on June 12.

Days after Juhi Chaturvedi was accused by late writer Rajeev Agarwal’s son, Akira, of plagiarising his father’s story for her upcoming film Gulabo Sitabo, the writer has rubbished the allegations and said the movie is her original work.

Juhi has written the story, screenplay and dialogues for the Shoojit Sircar directorial, featuring megastar Amitabh Bachchan and actor Ayushmann Khurrana. It is backed by Rising Sun Films.

Akira’s lawyer, Rizwan Siddiquee, had claimed that Rajeev had submitted his story in ‘Cinestaan India’s Storyteller Script Contest— promoted by the Screenwriters Association (SWA)—of which Juhi was a jury member and thus had access to the story.

Juhi said back in 2017, she had shared the idea of a “crooked old man” with Bachchan who had asked the writer to develop the story.

“My conscience is clear and so are the facts in this matter. Gulabo Sitabo is my original work and I am proud of it. I shared the idea with the director and lead actor of the film in early 2017. I subsequently registered the concept note for the film in May 2018,” she said in a statement.

The writer denied having any access “to the so-called infringed script at any point in time.”

Juhi said the same has been independently confirmed by Cinestaan as well as the SWA, “who has looked at this dispute in May, 2020 and decided in my favour.”

“I speak now to request the press and public not to be disillusioned by false accusations, which are for publicity only. Acts of harassment, defamatory comments, and leaking confidential notices by the accusers only show their lack of faith in their own case. I stand by my truth,” she added.

Siddiquee had earlier said Akira had approached SWA for mediation, which then asked Juhi to submit her script.

The lawyer claimed Juhi denied that she had access to Rajeev’s script, 16, Mohandas Lane, even though it was mentioned in the terms and conditions of Cinestaan India’s Storyteller Script Contest.

However, Anjum Rajabali, Jury Chairman, Cinestaan Script Contest, said Juhi had “absolutely no access to this particular script.”

Rajabali said the contest was divided into three stages and the jury—including superstar Aamir Khan, filmmaker Rajkumar Hirani, Juhi—had access to only the final top eight scripts.

“While 16, Mohandas Lane made it to the top 20, it did not enter the final list of 8 scripts which were sent to the jury. The jury, including Juhi, had absolutely no access to any script except for the 8 which were sent to them. So, it is totally incorrect to assume that since Juhi Chaturvedi was on the contest’s jury she had received the said script,” he added.

Producer Ronnie Lahiri of Rising Sun Films said the controversy seemed to be a “deliberate attempt to malign” Juhi and damage the film.

“At this time, when we have taken the bold decision to release the film on OTT, these baseless allegations only create unnecessary controversy,” he added.

Juhi has penned acclaimed films like Vicky Donor, October and Piku, all directed by Shoojit.

Gulabo Sitabo is currently gearing up for its premiere on Amazon Prime Video on June 12.