If you haven’t watched Gulabo Sitabo, we suggest you do so right away, for this post is full of potential spoilers.
At 87, she is among the handful of actors who has been working her charm in Bollywood for over five decades. She is also among the few names who can say that they have worked with some of the biggest stars of the industry — including Big B, all the three Khans, and now, a Khurrana.
Meet Farrukh Jaffar, the sassy and badass Fatto Begum from Gulabo Sitabo, the latest hit from Shoojit Sircar, which has been winning hearts left, right, and centre.
In a film led by Amitabh Bachchan and Ayushmann Khurrana – one with a larger-than-life persona and an evergreen presence in Bollywood, and the other who has slowly risen to be one of the names to reckon with when it comes to quality content – it can be quite difficult to steal the show. But, Farrukh Jaffar manages it all, without even breaking a sweat.
Armed with her infectious smile and witty one-liners, the actor, whose career can be traced back to the Umrao Jaan (1981), makes her presence felt. And how! Even with limited screen time, Farrukh’s Fatto Begum manages to amuse, entertain, and tickle our funny bones, serving just the right amount of sass and wily commentary.
Moreover, it is quite uncommon to see a mainstream Bollywood film about old and rickety characters without being reduced to some hackneyed trope. And even more unusual for the desi audience to fall in love with an actor over 80. Credit, of course, goes to Farrukh’s magnetic charm.
Here are 7 times her character left us in awe, inspiring us to make daring choices.
When she is sassy and speaks without mincing her words
If there is one characteristic of Fattu Begum that stands out throughout the film, it is her candid demeanour and unfiltered comments. She is unafraid of speaking her mind, loud and clear.
Even if that means making sarcastic comments, letting the men in her home know that their petulant behaviour has not gone unnoticed.
“Arey bulb na chori hui, nigodi jaydat chori ho gayi, (As if he didn’t lose a bulb, but his entire wealth),” the Begum remarks in one of the opening scenes, offering a glimpse into her funny and observant self.
When she holds the reigns of the Palace, even at her age
You don’t need to be loud to exert control. And that’s exactly what the Begum of Fatima Mahal does with her limited dialogues in Gulabo Sitabo. Despite what the world would think of her, of what Mirza (Bachchan) would like others to believe of her, the Begum holds on to the reigns of her household with a steely grip.
And it is visible in the seemingly trivial exchanges, right from the way she deals with the finances – Mirza is often seen rummaging through her personal box for spare changes – and to how she steers the household with the help of her aide, a woman by the name of Dulhan.
When she defies age and indulges in self-care
You are only as old as you feel. In Sircar’s Gulabo Sitabo, the Begum personifies this ideology. From time to time, she is seen taking time out to indulge a bit, to let Dulhan apply henna in her hair or Guddo (Srishti Srivastava) bead her mane with colourful accessories.
The Begum might be inching towards her 95th birthday, but she doesn’t allow her age to stop her from indulging in self-care or beauty treatments or anything that would make her feel young and full of life.
When she is always one step ahead
We do not want to give away an important twist, but we will say this. Begum Sahiba is neither senile nor gullible. If anything, she is always one step ahead of her treacherous husband Mirza, the band of tenants who have joined forces to nab her ancestral property, and the other agents of greed and destruction.
A quality that is evident in the way she has been in talks with her lawyer throughout, without letting others have the slightest hint about it.
When she pulls off a cheeky con
It is no secret that Mirza’s devotion to his wife (at least the majority of it) is driven by his greed for the haveli (palace). So, when the original owner of the haveli gets an air of these deceitful motives, especially after Mirza pulls that forgery business on her in the middle of the night, the Begum wastes no time in teaching her husband a lesson.
She bandages all her fingers the next morning, sending Mirza a subtle message on the art of conning.
When she has the last laugh
They say, triumph belongs to those who get to have the last laugh. In Gulabo Sitabo, this honour belongs to none other than Fatto Begum.
The true heir to Fatima Mahal, the wife of Mirza, and a quiet spectator in most occasions, Begum serves the greatest blow as she sells off the mansion to her lover and elopes with him in the end, leaving Mirza (and the viewers) stumped.
Lastly, when she writes that heartfelt letter
Despite all the differences she had with her husband, including the age gap – she was 17 years older to Mirza – Begum had his best interests at heart. A glimpse of this is offered in her last letter, where she opens up — perhaps for the first time — sharing more than she has ever done in the entire movie to Mirza.
She reveals how she had initially wanted to leave the mansion to her husband, and also acknowledges the circumstances that led her to change her mind.
Even in the face of deceit and dishonesty, the Begum chooses to leave one of Mirza’s favourite articles from the mansion to him. In doing so, she not only shows her true colours, but also displays a rare humane side. A quality we perhaps knew and suspected she had all along.
(Edited by Saheli Sen Gupta)