For a while it seems like a redux of Ayyapanum Koshyum in a different setting, in a different context. Just that the animosity here is not because of bloated egos but due to greed for one and survival instincts for the other.
Director Shoojit Sarkar, the director of Gulabo Sitabo (GS) must be commended for not following any template for his movies. The films he has done so far, from “Vicky Donor” to “October” last year, have all been different and so is GS. It’s not the usual Bollywood fare with male and female protagonists, villains etc but more like a Malayalam or a Bengali film where the central character is a Haveli in Lucknow. The plot revolves around the moves the key characters plot to save the plot (Haveli) in question but with conflicting intentions.
The above basic premise is different and interesting. The characterisation and casting of the key players are brilliant. The writing of Juhi Chaturvedi with whom Shoojit has partnered in the past for Piku, Vicky Donor.. is mind blowing. In spite of all this, if the film doesn’t engage you fully, its because of the pace. The pace is too slow to one’s liking. Still, the slow pace could have been compensated by deploying wit in writing.
The film raises “meanness” in the society to another level. The old grumpy caretaker of the Haveli played by Senior Bachchan is so mean that he eagerly awaits and even meticulously prepares for his wife death. One of tenants played by Ayushman Khurana is so mean that he routinely barks at Bachchan. And so are other characters who scheme and plot.
For, Amitabh Bachchan who plays the role of the old Mirza, this is another feather in his crowded hat. For a man of around 75 years, the prosthetic make up makes him look 90+. His cracking dialogue delivery for this role is at times difficult to follow. Ayushman once again proves he is a versatile actor. Just that the Haryanvi dialect keeps peeping here and there in this Lucknowi story. Vijay Raaz is as usual brilliant as a sarkari officer. The other pick is Faruk Jaffar who plays the role of Begum and wife of Bachchan. She is delightful and in fact steals the show in many frames.
The film is entirely shot in Lucknow and the camera brings the sights and sounds of the heritage city in its entirety. The songs which come as backdrops are placed well and gel with the narrative.
The title for the film is intriguing. The connection is established through two bickering characters in a puppet show but that looks very forced.
The twist at the end of the film is quite interesting and out of the blue. But to get there, the journey is a bit grinding. A more witty and pacy screenplay would have elevated this film to another level. Watch it at your own pace for Lucknow, the brilliance of the actors and the subject. If you are not a fan of slow films, skip it.