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Filmmaker Shoojit Sircar’s Gulabo Sitabo is an ode to Lucknow’s beauty

Lucknow, also known as the city of nawabs, is a heritage city in India
Image courtesy: ©Subodh Agnihotri/Shutterstock.com

Lucknow once called the Paris of the subcontinent, is the backdrop to a lively bunch of characters in the film Gulabo Sitabo.

The title of Shoojit Sircar’s latest film Gulabo Sitabo is a play on hand puppets of the same name. The puppets are a pair of squabbling sisters who are a part of the traditional folk art of Lucknow. The film’s leads are Amitabh Bachchan and Ayushmann Khurana who play a quarrelsome landlord and tenant in a haveli in Lucknow’s Old City.

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Lucknow’s multicultural architecture form a backdrop in the film. From French architectural features of Claude Martin’s La Martiniere school, striking Anglo churches and Hindu shrines by the Gomti river, the imposing grandeur of Mughal architecture of Bara and Chota Imambara, Gulabo Sitabo showcases ‘the essence of the city and its cosmopolitanism’, says Sircar.

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The crumbling beauty of Mahmudabad haveli is where the film shooting was set. The haveli is shown as the property of the grizzled Mirza where the drama unfolds.

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Well-known neighbourhoods and landmarks of the Lucknow like Imambara, Lahri Manzil, Wazirganj, Lal Darwaja, Lucknow College of Arts and Crafts, Chattar Manzil and the bustle of Aminabad Market and the signposts of the Old City have been featured in the film.

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‘On my first visit to Lucknow two decades ago, I had landed at Akbari Darwaza during Ramzan and the famous food at the Chowk was incomparable’, says Sircar. Gulabo Sitabo’s shooting was in the summer of last year and the crew feasted on UP’s fragrant mangoes. Sircar, a Bengali, finds many similarities between Lucknow and Bengal, especially Kolkata’s love for Awadhi meat preparations.

Lucknow’s people are warm and take time to show curiosity about visitors and talk and engage with them with keen interest and you can find the city’s interesting and odd characters perched on dilapidated shopfronts and benches of the city. ‘You can find many Mirzas like that of my film in Lucknow if you people watch’, says Sircar.

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Travel and movies are linked closely. Many places from cities to small villages have become popular among tourists after they’ve seen it shown invitingly in movies, says Sircar who wanted to visit Siberia after watching the film Iceland.