For most people, the set of Shoojit Sircar’s on-screen Gulabo Sitabo is like an ordinary crumbled mansion, but from an architect or designer’s perspective, there is a fine and outstanding detailing that has gone into its making. There is no doubt that the heavy-weight champs Amitabh Bachchan, Ayushmaan Khurana and other down-to-earth cast took the audience breath away with their impeccable acting, but it is the picturesquely archaic, tattered mansion- Fatima Mahal (or Mahmudabad Palace in real-life) at the centre of the movie. The haveli is the bone of contention that everyone wants a piece of. Today, SURFACES REPORTER (SR), as promised, has come up with yet another architectural review of a movie, and this time it is a Bollywood movie- Gulabo Sitabo. Have a joyful read:
When cinema halls were shut due to lockdown, a few film producers did not stop to entertain their audiences. They chose streaming platforms to release their films and Shoojit Sircar is one of those filmmakers who released an outstanding movie on Amazon Prime. Shoojit, film director, and Juhi Chaturvedi, writer of “Gulabo Sitabo” presented a wonderful low-key Hindi comedy where Mirza, the eccentric landlord of Fatima Mahal always fights with his tenant Baankey when it comes to the fate of the broken-down mansion. He disregards Baankey for paying peanuts as rent and wants them to vacate the mansion as early as possible. Mirza cut their power, stole their light bulbs, and locked the communal latrine. Locking of the toilet is what escalated the battle and then a real estate lawyer and a government archaeologist enters the plot, who also have their plans for Fatima Mahal.
Survival seems like the core of the whole story where the survival of the haveli and the characters is interconnected. The wonderful direction and evocative, charming, and magnificent architecture of the Fatima Mahal does that to you in the narration. It allows the audience to submerge in the illusionary world in which the story is set in.
Covering Every Little Details
Certainly, the production team has done a tremendous job in exposing the little details of a dilapidated Fatima Mahal to show its natural exhaustion over time.
Beautiful touches of chipping plaster exposed bricks and broken tiles give justice to the mansion that could suddenly fall at any moment. The real challenge was to shoot in a wear down building which is more difficult than shooting in a new and polished one.
The use of blue paints with a contrast of exposed bricks and the dim-yellow paint gives the much-needed weariness to the outdated mansion.
Apart from these old scooters, broken windows, and tied down farm goats are all additional features to highlight the archaic personality of Fatima Mahal.
Traditional Lucknowi Influence
The city of Nawabs, Lucknow is beautifully captured in the movie. One can easily notice the numerous jam-packed bylanes and old-world glory along with the rustic and historic appeal of Lucknow.
Although most of the scenes predominantly filmed inside Fatima Mahal, whatever parts of the city have been shown in the film, gives a genuine feel of the city. Outdoor sequences shot in Hazratganj and Aminabad markets. Western Kaiser Bagh Gate is the one striking and most prominent structure shown in multiple scenes of the movie.
A Stark Contrast in the Interiors
There is an evident contrast between the areas of the mansion Fatima Begum resides and the one that is occupied by the renters. The tenants room show poverty. Small single rooms are packed with large families.
For instance, Bankey lives in a single room with his mother and three sisters. She is the sole owner of the palace and her room has the reflections of its rich aristocratic ancestry. Her room is filled with books, clothes, and antique furniture. Also, it contains Begum’s childhood souvenirs like jewellery boxes, her old photographs, silver paandaan, and ittar bottles.
In the movie, the construction time of the haveli is not mentioned, but the deep details of the building give the idea of its age. The old Lucknowi influence in the design of the structure tells that it might have existed for over 60 years. The use of cluttered and stuffy interiors also telling its antiquity. It was shown in the movie where Mirza’s wife- Fatima Begum apprised about the grandness of the Haveli at one time.
Toilet- The Main Escalating Point
The battle between Mirza and his tenants escalate when Mirza locked the toilet and Baankey irritably kicked the wall which collapses. And then angry Mirza asks for the repair cost from him. Filmmakers have fabricated a toilet wall for the shoot as the palace is a part of heritage and cannot be harmed.
Subtly, the ramshackle condition of the mansion is somehow a reflection of the dwellers- everyone with big dreams, but a life infected with greed, poverty and materialistic thinking.
The story of the movie is captivating and unexpected all at once. From the humorously idiosyncratic characters to the fascinating haveli along with Lucknow’s rich and bustling street life, the movie seems ideal for architecture and design enthusiasts and for those who love historical structures and a subdued comedy.
Have you watched this movie? What is your architectural point of view about this movie? Let us know in the comments below:
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