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Gulabo Sitabo is a movie that gives us female characters that are not just unusually real but also powerful without any obvious rebellion or resistance.
Gulabo Sitabo released on Amazon Prime some time ago. While Bachchan appears on the screen after a while, it is the women of this film that will make you want to revisit it. With every passing scene, the women introduce their audience to everyday feminism and establish it as a way of life.
As we try and grapple with a pandemic, resumed lifestyle, I watched Gulabo Sitabo with a lot of love and nostalgia. In Gulabo Sitabo, Director Soojit Sarkar and Writer Juhi Chaturvedi create a world filled with greed, defeat, and melancholy to communicate all of this through the subtle humour. While the film receives mixed reviews, most of us awaited it or watched it because of Bachchan and Khurrana but the show stealers of Gulabo Sitabo are its women, Begum, Guddo, Fauzia, Neetu, the unnamed assistant in the archaeology department and the haveli herself.
Juhi Chaturvedi is the master of details and creates female characters that are not just unusually real but also powerful without any obvious rebellion or resistance. It is in her writing that she introduces her audience to everyday feminism and establishes it as a way of life. These characters are such a breath of fresh air that you don’t want to stop watching them.
Begum and Fatima Mahal are over 90 years old. One cannot help but notice the uncanny resemblance in both Begum and the building. They are sharp, glamorous, sensitive, dilapidated, and self-protective, all at the same time. It is such a pleasant surprise to watch an older character written and sewed in such a transformative manner.
They are so old that they have forgotten about a separated lover and are ready to crumble any moment but not without any style. Being the centre of everyone’s entertainment, love and greed, both Begum and Fatima Mahal does not depend on anyone else’s decision-making and make you want to take charge of your life, all over again. I found myself smiling and in absolute adoration of her sunglasses during the birthday party, trust me, you will too.
Guddo, a recent graduate in need of a job (like most of us) stood out for her likeable belligerence. It is commendable how her sexual needs, aggression, and confidence are directed. Guddo is huge progress from the regular ‘hero ki behen’ and makes you want to congratulate Indian Cinema. She hardly smiles during the film but you know she is a saviour. In a scene where her romantic interest is upset to find out that he is ‘her third’, she sarcastically apologizes to have hurt his self-esteem and requests him to leave. At that very moment, she expresses various nuances related to women’s sexuality, desire, a deep understanding of men, and an expected reaction.
While Guddo and Begum’s spectacular presence leaves little space for you to focus on others, it is specifically Neetu, Bankey’s youngest sister, and her sensitive observation that catches your attention and stays with you. She is the ‘ghar ka bhedi’ and is adamant about revealing everyone’s secret lives with utter innocence. Notice her particularly in the scene where she is leaving the Haveli, she is the only one who seems to miss it. While everyone else would only mourn the shelter, Neetu seems to be leaving behind something more than
just four walls.
Fauzia who plays Bankey’s girlfriend is straightforward and knows what she wants. Like the others in the film, she is not without her flaws but that is exactly what makes her interesting. She is not your regular romantic but is so pained with a refusal that does not leave a chance to demean her ex-lover. She mocks where it hurts the most, at his ego and poor financial circumstances. Her stunt of showing off her acquired wealth through the means of an arranged marriage narrates how we often compensate for our love and loss.
Last but not the least, the unnamed assistant of the archaeology department, thrilled to put up government banners and cannot contain her excitement for the same. She is the epitome of our mundane jobs and the cheap thrills that come with it.
Observe her during a scene where she is putting up a banner and committing to buy peas on her way back. This is not something, which hasn’t been saying before, but this short scene of a couple of minutes provides to you a sneak peek of a woman’s double duties. Her presence is minimal but the body language and forever excitement for a selfie are to be remembered. All in all, Gulabo Sitabo will speak to you in various intersectional ways. It will make you ponder over nostalgia, love, ageing, and much more but it is the women of this film that will make you revisit it. It’s the women in this film that adapt and change with the demands of their circumstances.
Watch them carefully; they teach us resilience (at an opportune time) and are bound to make you smirk.
Bachchan and Khurrana also do a good job!
Picture Credits – Stills From Gulabo Sitabo
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