If the writer-director duo’s previous film October was a study of grief, then Gulabo Sitabo can be called as a study of greed. Early in the film, the puppeteer calls Mirza a laalchi after he takes some coins from his show. Mirza had the habit of stealing and selling every little item that he could lay his hands on; be it a bulb, a pickle jar, or a chandelier. Mirza’s prime interest in life was getting money. Everyone around him warns Mirza about his stinginess but he believes no one ever died of greed. He bargains even while buying a shroud that the shopkeeper reminds him that he should let go of greed at least in death. Mirza associates a monetary value with everything unaware of their emotional value. He sells his favorite chair for a measly two hundred fifty rupees, which is later priced at over a lakh. It is a reflection that Mirza did not see the true value of those things. In life, most things come with a price tag but some are truly priceless. His wife Fatima Begum (Farrukh Jaffar) was not going to let him sell the Fatima Mahal because for her it is priceless. She has too many memories associated with the haveli; she even chose to not marry her first love of life because she did want to move to London. Mirza, however, is blinded by his avarice. The popular MasterCard campaign captured the emotion perfectly—”There are some things money can’t buy.” The film’s tagline Ek Priceless Jodi also underscores this aspect of pricelessness.
Later in the film, Mirza and Christopher Clark (Brijendra Kala) go on a trip to collect the signatures of Begum’s relatives to remove their claim from the haveli. After meeting the family, Christopher wonders the reason for them not liking Mirza. Mirza replies that he did not feel like that which again shows how he cannot see anything else except the haveli. In the end, Baankey asks Mirza about what Begum saw in him when she agreed to get married to him. He replies, “Hamari jawaani.” Baankey is surprised at the answer as it is hard for him to imagine that Mirza could have been young once. But as Begum revealed, she chose him as he was willing to be a ghar jamaai. The overarching theme here is that Mirza is not able to see things beyond his perception. Begum keeps talking about Nehru Ji but it felt like Mirza is the one who is stuck in the time warp. He is stuck in a marriage hoping that his wife dies at the earliest. He is enamored by the idea of owning the Fatima Mahal that he leaves out on other pleasures of life. He chose not to have any kids of his own as he wanted to be the sole inheritor of the haveli. What use will be of the haveli at this stage of life when he is nearing eighty-years of age. As one of the songs in the films advises him, “Kya leke aayo jagme, kya leke jaayega. Haan sab yahi chhod jayega.” He cannot see life is passing by him. There is a beautiful scene towards the end when Mirza walks back from Begum’s birthday party with a balloon in his hand. For all the running around he did for the haveli, he is left with nothing except a ball of air. He lost both his Fatimas, the Mahal as well as the Begum.
Not just Mirza, the other characters in the film also displayed their greed. Baankey had to pay the decades-old rent of thirty rupees but he goes to extreme lengths to avoid paying this pittance of an amount. He would ask his sisters to do fake drama of having no money in front of Mirza. There is also Gyanesh Shukla (Vijay Raaz) who has his ulterior motive of giving the haveli to a politician. Christopher Clark also wants to sell the haveli to his builder friend. Mirza’s friend Pandey (Shri Prakash Bajpai) was also looking for his commission from the builder and tries to hide when he hears Mirza has come to sell the haveli. At one point in the film, a media circus ensues after a baba dreamt of gold buried in the city. Everyone wants a share of the buried gold because they are all golddiggers. The film shows all the men as greedy.
Women, especially the older-in-age characters, in the universe of Shoojit Sircar and Juhi Chaturvedi have always been charming. There is the progressive Biji (Kamlesh Gill) in Vicky Donor who makes no fuss when she learns that her grandson’s fiancée is a divorcee. She also likes to enjoy a drink every night with her daughter-in-law. There is the sassy Chhobi Maashi in Piku who freely talks about sex with her niece and was herself married three times. There is the gracious Vidya Iyer (Gitanjali Rao) in October who goes about living life with strength every day while dealing with profound grief. There is the amazing Fatima Begum in Gulabo Sitabo who manages to trick everyone and gets married to the love of her life notwithstanding the stage of life she was in.