Gulabo Sitabo – Covid-19 Pulls Down Cinematic Experience; OTT Rescues

Change is the only thing constant in our lives. The novel Coronavirus has continuously become a part of our lives for the last 6 months. Not to forget, the virus has undergone changes in its nature too. It’s not just our lives, but everything around us that has undergone a change, especially in the field of entertainment.

The cinematic universe is one of them which fell in the trap of the virus. Since we humans are technologically powerful, we could fight the odds of not being able to sit in a theatre “just for fun”. Even though our fight with Covid-19 is ongoing and tough, the entertainment industry should not come to a halt. OTT marks its entry like Ironman in Infinity War or Hrithik Roshan in Dhoom 2, both taking centre stage and coming to the rescue.

OTT (Over The Top) brought along quite a lot of controversy with films using the platform for their release. This led to Inox and PVR to protest against the producers who opted to release movies through online streaming platforms. With the onset of online streaming platforms and the original production of individual channels, it has become quite popular among people. Covid-19 brought about a change among theatre and theatre visitors until things get back to normalcy. However, until then, the movies scheduled to be released during this period of lockdown have been streamed on OTT platforms. This concept is not new for regular followers of these online streaming methods. However, the feel of watching movies in a theatre is very different and has a different kind of magnitude. Some movies have a more substantial impact because of the different sound appeal and moods, created in a theatrical atmosphere. OTT has changed the game and brought films closer to the audience.

Technically, Angrezi Medium, starring Irfan Khan, was the first film in 2020 to be released on an OTT platform. It was theatrically released on 13th March 2020 but was soon called off due to the outbreak of Covid-19. After a lot of controversy about rescheduling its release, Disney+ Hotstar bought its premier.

Shoojit Sircar’s Gulabo Sitabo is streaming on Amazon Prime. There is an obvious implication with the hype, considering it is a high budget film. How has there been no buzz about Chintu ka Birthday? Oh, wait, have you heard about it yet? If not, it was released on ZEE5 on the 5th June. Yes, you read that right, ZEE5. But Gulabo Sitabo just wanted another platform and grabbed our attention.

Adhering to the roots of storytelling, we go back to follow the method used by our grandparents (daadi-naani), films like Gulabo Sitabo delves deep into those treasure tales sequence similar to those kinds, fresh and unheard. It is this familiar kind of storytelling that takes you to a ride-along, tickles your funny bone and subtly teaches you a lesson. Gulabo Sitabo directed by Shoojit Sarcar and produced by Juni Chaturvedi is a socio-political satire making its release on Amazon Prime, after a lot of controversies. Set in the backdrop of Lucknow, the city of Nawab, without the people having to enjoy the “nawabi”. The movie zooms into lives of the haves and the have-nots. While the former does not leave any opportunity to bring down the latter and authorize over them. The film title is inspired from Gulabo-Sitabo, a duo of puppets familiar to north-Indian folklore famous from a proclivity to have a go at each other and passing hurling insults. They make an appearance at the vintage points in the film.

The struggles of a middle-class family and their regularities have brought out a good laugh, but one will chuckle for most instances. It is a story of greed, desperation, foolishness and selfishness brewed together beautifully, which sadly takes up quite a length of the movie. Human attachment with materialism is much the crux of the film brought out through wit and irony.

Since Covid-19, our attachment with materialism has risen and will mark a higher rise gradually. You could opt to watch a movie in the cinema hall, now it’s just your home, a smart TV and good WiFi connection. The last two were optional until Covid-19. With time, will you still be surprised to notice a home theatre at your friend’s house? I guess not. Who would dare to leave the comfort of their homes for a theatre? Cinema has undergone revolutionary changes, from 2D to 12D to the TV back at home. BIG B (Amitabh Bachchan) confesses how in his journey through the industry, he has witnessed and has been a part of several changes. In the 51 years of BIG B’s career, he was honoured to be part of yet another turn and is ready to embrace it through the release of Gulabo Sitabo.

Want to see what role reversal looks like? Ayushmann tweets, “Advance mein aapko book kar rahe hai!”. While we were merely the audience that bought the seats and shows and couldn’t quit (kyuki paise diye hai), now we are THE audience that could choose to either sit through the movie or stop it midway. From skipping intro to skipping the film, we are bestowed with the power. However, we still miss grabbing popcorn and struggling through time just to catch our seats till the lights are turned off. We miss not randomly making plans with friends and family for a movie or grab a seat alone when you want to spend some quality time with yourself. Are we still going to know and feel a house full of the audience for movies like Avengers? Can you even scream in the theatre when Ironman marks his entry or when Shahrukh Khan marks his entry? Possibly not so soon.

Gulabo Sitabo could still manage a sit through since it was the first  OTT movie within the four walls of our house. With a run time of 124 minutes and having slow burn, the movie left behind some good reviews. Perhaps the audience was happy with the choice of actors, and their portrayal in a middle-class Indian family set up. The film is an amalgamation of humor, wit, and a lengthy sequence filled with entertainment.

The film has similarity with Tom and Jerry, interpreted in modern times with modern problems placed in a middle-class Indian setting. A tribute to the cartoon is brought out in one of the scenes as we see it run in the background. Mirza and Baanke, played by Amitabh and Ayushmann respectively, trying to one-up each other is similar to Tom and Jerry. Just like the final show of the animated series, Mirza and Baanke sit together sharing the same despair and leaving their differences behind.

The OTT market changes the game, lights are going out of shoots, promotions and premiers, OTT witnesses a sharp rise in popularity. Indian cinema will witness a loss of billions with the closure of cinema complex.  A big budget Bollywood film spends 15-20 crore on promotions. Since this new change is born, we could feel the burn even more. With promotions coming to a halt, innovative video ads will take lead with a hike in payment. Expecting much changes post Covid-19 would not be a sensible thing to think about. Will theatres become just another luxurious experience? Or will not a sight of it all?

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