Gulabo Sitabo Review (No Spoilers): Sometimes a Movie Really Has to Be About Something

I did it! I watched the first digital premiere major movie! And I really wish I had seen it in theaters so Dina and I could have whispered to each other jokes about how bad it was the whole time. Not a movie that really makes you happy and entertained and happy when watched by yourself streaming. More one that makes you keep checking the clock and waiting for something to HAPPEN.

This movie has a great script, and great performances. But no momentum! I am beginning to think that Shoojit is no good at crafting films that have a natural rise and then fall. Piku was great, love Piku, but I think the special ingredient there was the chemistry between Irrfan and Deepika. The narrative went nowhere, nothing really happened or changed that much, but the Irrfan-Dips chemistry kept us interested and the indication that they were together at the end was enough of a resolution. In this movie, there is nothing like that, nothing that gives any sense of a resolution. Which means the plotholes and missed opportunities and just sort of strange treading water feeling to it all is highlighted even more.

Gulabo Sitabo (2020) - IMDb

The cast really is great, and the performances alone go a long way to saving the film. Ayushmann and Amitabh fully inhabit their characters to the point that I forgot they were acting. Vijay Raaz is as entertaining and perfect as always. And they are surrounded by excellent lessor known actors, in particular Srishti Shrivastava who almost steals the movie as Ayushmann’s smart sister.

The script is good too, I was watching it thinking that all the ingredients were there for a solid narrative. The dialogue is great, the way the character’s backstory is woven in and out is brilliant, the central conflict is a perfect balance of original and familiar (original in the particular take on it, familiar in that it clearly calls back to Sahib Biwi Aur Ghulam). Juhi Chaturvedi did the script, as she has done almost all of Shoojit’s scripts, and her voice is as much part of what we think of as a “Shoojit Sircar movie” as his directing. Only in this case, I think his directing let down her voice. The most interesting conflicts of the script were thrown in without particular notice in the directing, and then the resolution scenes were rushed. We got so many silent moments of watching Ayushmann or Amitabh’s face as they made a decision, observing them going through their days, and then Srishti was almost ignored, her life and emotions and decisions shown only through her dialogue, and then her resolution dropped.

The more I think about it, the more it fails like a failure of direction. Juhi’s scripts are always kind of slice of life things, nothing really “happens”, but the characters grow and change as time passes. It is up to her director to give that weight to the story, and the sense of resolution to the ending. Put in a song to express unspoken emotions, or a beautiful shot to give us a sense of a relationship progression, ANYTHING. Instead it feels like Shoojit got so lost in his two favorite actors, Ayushmann and Amitabh, that he just let the camera follow them around with no idea of a point to it all.

Maybe it’s that there both is and isn’t a point? The narrative is so loose that I didn’t feel a clear resolution to it. And yet built into the script are a series of careful builds on the situation. The film was shot as though it was just about following these characters day by day, but the script had a point to it which was lost somewhere. At the end of it, I was left feeling let down somehow, “is that all there is?” which is not how a film should leave me.

8 thoughts on “Gulabo Sitabo Review (No Spoilers): Sometimes a Movie Really Has to Be About Something

    • Yeah, it’s just meandering and cynical, without any romance or strong female characters to keep us interested.

      On Mon, Jun 22, 2020 at 2:24 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  1. Interesting. I of course love Piku and I’m one of the few people that loved October so Shoojit has been a director whose projects I’ve been interested in yet for some reason I haven’t been as excited about this movie and haven’t gotten around to seeing it yet and I feel like the responses I’ve ran into have been lackluster. Maybe it’s a combination of me not liking Vicky Donor (the last Shoojit-Ayushmann collab) and general Ayushmann fatigue.

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    • I wasn’t excited either, and after watching it, I think I have a better idea of why I wasn’t excited. the trailers positioned this firmly as “Amitabh versus Ayushmann”. And I’m just not interested in that. If Piku had been Irrfan versus Amitabh, I wouldn’t have cared either. You need a third character to add tension and plot movement to the thing, someone who can bounce between the two, or who they can both ally against. And that’s what the film ended up being, just Ayushmann versus Amitabh on and on for 2 hours with neither of them learning anything or moving forward.

      On Mon, Jun 22, 2020 at 2:30 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  2. I have to admit at one point I completely stopped following the plot and started playing with my phone. I haven’t watched such a dull movie in a long time. The pace moves like a snail and you wonder why you should hang on and what the point is for this torture. I finished it only for the heck of it because I had lost interest long before the end. The only thing that made me crack a smile was the scene of the old wife driving away in a big car like a badass.
    Was this the same man who made made October and Piku? I loved both of those so how did he not realize this one was unbearable?

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    • All I can think of is maybe it was supposed to be unbearable? I mean, he’s showing us people trapped in an endless unchanging cycle, landlord-tenant, and the struggle for money of the lower classes. So they keep trying to move and are trapped in place. Just like October gave us the feeling of being in a kind of dreamlike state to reflect the feeling of the coma, and Piku gave us a journey moving towards the end.

      But I don’t want to be trapped in a landlord-tenant debate! It’s unpleasant!

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  3. I watched this a while ago with my mom and we almost stopped in the first 20 mins but then we got through that and i felt like the movie was interesting enough to finish once more characters got involved. Overall, this felt like a decent one-time watch during quarantine but i’ll probably never think about this movie again

    “Instead it feels like Shoojit got so lost in his two favorite actors, Ayushmann and Amitabh, that he just let the camera follow them around with no idea of a point to it all.”
    Yes! This is exactly how I felt about it at times. I honestly felt like some of the side characters were more intriguing but we were stuck with Amitabh and Ayushmann the entire time.

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    • HA! I don’t think I’ve thought about this movie since I put up the review, until you posted this comment. So yes, exactly, one time watch and forget it.

      On Sat, Nov 14, 2020 at 9:44 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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