Amitabh Bachchan and Ayushmann Khurrana’s upcoming direct to digital release Gulabo Sitabo has drummed up massive buzz on social media, and also in the entertainment industry, courtesy its status as the first big movie to release directly on OTT. Gulabo Sitabo was to initially release in theatres. But the Coronavirus shutdown led to the makers of the movie deciding to release it directly on Amazon Prime Video. The move is sure to bring far-reaching upheavals in the film industry.
Amitabh Bachchan is Gulabo in the movie, while Ayushmann Khurrana is Sitabo. But do you know the real story behind the pleasantly rhyming names of Gulabo Sitabo?
Well, Gulabo Sitabo are a pair of glove puppets, popular in Lucknow and the Hindi heartlands. The puppets have a back story – they are two bickering women – Sitabo is the long-suffering, hard-working wife of a man, while Gulabo is the scintillating mistress of the same man. The two puppets or women are forever sparring, and their bickering banter is what adds the fun and spice in the puppet shows featuring Gulabo Sitabo. Salacious jokes, slice-of-life incidents, lessons on morality, public service messages like hygiene and education, are all added to the semi-improvised plot.
Gulabo Sitabo were created by Ram Niranjan Lal Srivastava, a Kayastha from Pratapgarh. Interestingly, Pratapgarh is also the district where Amitabh Bachchan’s roots can be traced to – his ancestors are from the place.
Srivastava would showcase his puppetry art across UP cities in the sixties and seventies, and soon Gulabo Sitabo became famous as the bickering wife and mistress of the man. Incidentally, the man rarely made an appearance in the Gulabo Sitabo puppet shows.
Gradually, the names Gulabo Sitabo also entered the common lexicon of Uttar Pradesh. Eventually, any two bickering people were admonished with the phrase – “Arey, Gulabo Sitabo kyon ban rahe ho…..”
A pride-worthy fact for the creator of Gulabo Sitabo is that the puppets have a page dedicated to them in the World Encyclopaedia Of Puppetry Arts.
In the age of computer games, social media and digital entertainment, Gulabo Sitabo were on their way to extinction. The movie has revived interest in the folk art of glove puppets in general, and Gulabo Sitabo in particular.
Let us hope that the movie resurrects and revives the dying glove puppet form such that interest in Gulabo Sitabo the puppets lasts much beyond the interest in Gulabo Sitabo the movie. That’ll be Shoojit Sircar’s best tribute to the iconic pair whose names he has appropriated.
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