Absolute power corrupts absolutely. And the power to create a cinema that takes the prevalent language of narration into the domain of the dark and
unpredictable is a privilege belonging to some politically savvy filmmakers. Sudhir Mishra tops the list. Tigmanshu Dhulia follows close behind.
The manner in which Dhulia brings into foreplay the murky sleazy politics of Uttar Pradesh is remarkable for the fusion of lies and truth with the borderline
between the two extremes simply blurring.
Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster is an audacious tongue-in-cheek homage to Guru Dutt’s timeless classic Sahib Biwi Aur Ghulam. Don’t believe the
director’s protestations to the contrary. Dhulia’s film even opens with an unabashed tribute to Guru Dutt’s film with skeletons being dug out during an
There onwards there are plenty of skeletons tumbling out of secret places in the Zamindar (Jimmy Sheirgill)’s bedroom and other workplaces, all leading to a
series of climaxes, many of them of an aggressively sexual nature. Dhulia deconstructs and demystifies Meena Kumari’s alcohol-laden mysterious Choti Bahu
from Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam. As played by Mahie Gill in Dhulia’s new-age deconstructed version of the old film, the wife is a full-blooded sexually
dissatisfied curious and predatory creature somewhat annoying in her insistence on going against the rules of her husband’s crumbling haveli.
Scenes showing the wife’s rebellious streak are awkwardly constructed.
It is no coincidence that the intruder in Dhulia’s film is a libidinous over-ambitious driver whose hunger for sex and power drives him to self-destruction.
As played, Randeep Hooda the horny robbing-hood is quite the opposite of the gentle shy besotted little creature that the Choti Bahu befriended in Guru
Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster creates a world far removed from Guru Dutt’s classic, and yet the two works are miraculously joined at the hip. Almost every
character from the Guru Dutt film is replicated if not parodied in Dhulia’s film. There is even Deepal Shaw playing a modern-day version of Waheeda Rehan’s
Jabaa from Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam. Waheedaji’s reaction to her new-age avatar is awaited.
Sex and politics fuse into the fading crumbling feudal world of Dhulia’s cinema, creating a potent mix of passion and politics. As the goon who dares to
enter his benefactor’s wife’s bedroom and dreams of taking his place, Randeep Hooda has the best lines and graph for his character. Here’s an actor who is
yet to get his dues.
Mahie Gill plays the desolate wife with an absolute absence of enigma. Meena Kumari didn’t quite know what she was searching for. This woman knows exactly
what she wants and finally gets it through the nozzle of the gun.
Jimmy Sheirgill has over the years evolved as an actor of subtle skills. As the embittered husband and doddering landlord, he brings to the storyboard a kind
of gentle persuasiveness that goes beyond the narration. His scenes with his father’s mistress are gems conveying wry disdain for a woman who controls the
resources of a rapidly crumbling feudal kingdom.
Dhulia is in the habit of bringing into play the political forces that determine human nature in Uttar Pradesh. Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster turns
progressively Shakespearean towards the end with three protagonists hurling towards self-destruction. As they delve toward doom you are left with no choice
but to watch the characters as pathetic paradigms of an era that has long gone. The crumbling sepia-toned interiors and colour tones scream out a message of
live and let live. But it’s too late; Dhulia’s characters are felled by their own greed and lust.
Guru Dutt would have probably choked at this bad land bed roomy bawdy burlesque of Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam. Lekin maan na padega, Boss. Tigmanshu
Dhulia’s homage to Dutt is saucy if somewhat uneven in tone and jagged at the edges. The three principal underrated actors put in rousing sexy performances
in this voluptuous and raunchy romp in the raw and the rugged romance of the forbidden.