Gulmohar review
Gulmohar review

Gulmohar movie review: Manoj Bajpayee and Sharmila Tagore shine in this well-woven family tale

The screenplay by writers Rahul v. Chittela and Arpita Mukherjee is gentle yet impactful
Rating:(3.5 / 5)

When a family is about to leave a home, for days its memories are scattered on the floor, being placed in cardboard boxes, waiting to be taped shut. Unseen marks on walls, behind unhooked paintings, make themselves apparent. The house appears sunnier than usual as the curtains are packed now. One keeps on hitting their toenail against empty boxes or bubble-wrapped furniture. A forgotten shawl suddenly resurfaces but precisely-placed files go missing. Something more than memories is scattered when a joint family decides to leave its ancestral house. “They will remember each other, right?” Manoj Bajpayee’s Arun Batra in Gulmohar asks his wife Indira (Simran). An undivided family leaving its home is like a piggy bank shattering, nobody knows where the coins will roll away.

Cast: Sharmila Tagore, Manoj Bajpayee, Amol Palekar, Suraj Sharma and Chandan Roy

Director: Rahul V. Chittela

Streaming on: Disney+ Hotstar

Gulmohar, which is now streaming on Disney+ Hotstar, tells the story of the four days before the Batra family shifts from their Delhi home. The matriarch Kusum Batra (Sharmila Tagore) has decided to spend her last days in Pondicherry and her grandson Aditya (Suraj Sharma) wishes to lead an independent life with his wife Divya (Kaveri Seth) in a rented flat. Old-world Arun isn’t pleased. “Let some things stay as they are, there is no need to change everything,” he tells his wife when she asks him about the relevance of taking a phone directory to the new house.

Like all families, the Batras have their long-kept secrets, their boiling feuds and their unsaid apologies. Director Rahul V. Chittela and writer Arpita Mukherjee’s screenplay weaves all of it together meticulously, like a garland of night-flowering jasmines. The writing is encompassing and leaves no character thin. Not just the Batras, the makers delve deeply into the lives of their helpers. A love story blooming between the house cook and the security guard is explored in joyous detail. In a film high on sentimentality and emotions, the makers don’t forget to be cheeky. TVF Panchayat’s affable office assistant Chandan Roy plays Paramhans, a relative of the security guard who pushes him to confess his love to Reshma (Santhy), the cook. Paramhans is preparing for an exam he has failed five times before. The guard is named Jeetu.

Manoj Bajpayee plays the family’s elder son, Arun, clutching onto remnants of a forgotten time. Although he is adopted, Arun looks at his deceased father’s photo and asks his wife if he has started to look like him. His face emanates longing, fear and despair all at once and once again marks him as a seasoned actor. In one of the finest portrayals of anxiety on screen, Bajpayee sighs and clenches his trembling fist. Things are changing, too fast, too soon.

In a film buzzing with emotions, Sharmila Tagore exhibits calm and composure. Her Kusum looms over each family member like a guarding angel. Returning to the screen after over a decade (her last outing was the 2010 romantic comedy Break Ke Baad), Tagore proves she can still swing those acting chops with grace. She plays a character who remains unperturbed by change and even welcomes it. Like previously done by Achal Mishra’s Gamak Ghar (2019), Gulmohar accepts the inevitability of nuclear families and the abandonment of ancestral homes. The Batra house will be taken over by a builder, demolished and in its place will spring a high rise, with a garden, a pool and probably a shopping centre. The coins might roll away in every direction. But, maybe, all that happens is meant to be.

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