The first huge Indian launch of 2020 to divert in direction of streaming is an offbeam, surprisingly mismanaged parable about property administration that renders its stars all however unrecognisable. The established Amitabh Bachchan is buried beneath old-age latex and thick-lensed glasses; emergent pin-up Ayushmann Khurrana is weighed down by a (presumably prosthetic) middle-aged unfold. Nevertheless director Shoojit Sircar’s gaze retains drifting past them, to a location you couldn’t make-under: a mildewing Lucknow mansion home, lorded over by Bachchan’s shuffling miser Mirza, ever in search of methods to kick Khurrana’s collected waifs-and-strays to the kerb. The curious, altogether tentative drama that ensues could also be as shut as any film-maker has come to signing off on a Hindi redo of TV’s Rising Damp.
Alas, it’s additionally a type of circumstances the place pressured idiosyncrasy tries the persistence from an early stage. With 2015’s sharp, breezy Piku and 2018’s delicate however involving October, Sircar had nudged Indian business cinema in a rewarding, naturalistic path; however this simply appears like a pressure. A laboured first half scopes out the characters’ dingy surrounds with out threatening to go anyplace, and toes are apparently being dragged as a result of Sircar and customarily dependable screenwriter Juhi Chaturvedi aren’t themselves certain which path to maneuver in. Brakes are quickly utilized to the mounting narrative of landlord-tenant class battle – “Parasite!”, yells Mirza, reminding us of a extra decisive movie on an analogous topic – in favour of a softer touchdown as each antagonists fall prey to creeping gentrification.
Whereas the supporting solid efficiently counsel a bustling, mutually sustaining neighborhood, the celebs come to appear like liabilities, which wasn’t the case with Sircar’s earlier movies. Bachchan works exhausting at his swaddled meanie character, however make-up and props are doing a lot of the work, work that in the end serves to distance actor from viewers. A tired-seeming Khurrana, in the meantime, presents as blandly nameless, decreasing a remaining push for pathos to a limp shrug. Everybody seems on the mercy of shaky narrative foundations; even a cursory survey would counsel that no matter occurred on this story’s journey to the display, very important components simply didn’t take. You watch puzzled as – just like the ageing pile on the story’s centre – the movie flakes, moulders and crumbles earlier than you.
• Gulabo Sitabo is accessible on Amazon Prime from 12 June.