New Delhi: How about a perfect portrayal of a drifting joint family? Here’s a beautiful ode to the homes and families that we form and what happens when the actual space that we share with our loved ones no longer exists. ‘Gulmohar’ is an uplifting story of ‘Batras,’ a family where every member has their own choices to live and beliefs to follow.
This film, directed by Rahul V. Chittella, takes place in the residence of a rich Delhi family during their last four days together. The Batras have lived in ‘Gulmohar Villa’ for the last 34 years, but in just four days they will be relocating to a penthouse in Gurgaon. Throughout the span of four days, each character will mature enough to make their mark on the unity of the family.
This movie is carried by the stellar work of its two leads, Manoj Bajpayee and Sharmila Tagore.
The scene opens with Kusum Batra (Sharmila Tagore) on a phone call and family members talking in the background. Arun Batra (Manoj Bajpayee), the only child of Kusum, reminisces about growing up in the family home. Kusum, now in her 70s, has decided that she wants to finally do things her way. She is confident, her lines are crystal clear, and she exudes warmth as she speaks.
Kusum surprises everyone by announcing she would not be moving into her son’s new apartment but instead has purchased a home in Pondicherry. However, she wishes to spend the last Holi together in ‘Gulmohar Villa’.
Kusum is the kind of grandma who makes some people nostalgic for their own grandmothers, while others long for a grandma like her.
When some long-kept family secrets are finally disclosed, they make everyone in the family feel powerless. Each protagonist is dealing with a family or personal crisis that contributes to the overall tension. The conversations are witty and add depth to each character’s narrative.
As they prepare to move, the family gradually begins to feel more and more distant from one another over the course of the next few days. In this gripping family drama, time puts relationships to the test, whether they be between a mother and son, a husband and wife or a father and son.
The cinematography is superb, particularly in the sequences involving the packing and unpacking of luggage, which symbolises the release of suppressed emotions and the recall of long-forgotten memories.
The term “Gulmohar” relates to the Delhi street tree that serves as a colourful canopy and a reassuring shield of calm in an otherwise frenetic metropolis. The Batras have no option but to move on with their life now that the house has been sold, marking the end of an era that has provided so much happiness.
It also highlights the socioeconomic disparity and social stereotypes in our society by providing a glimpse into the lives of the villa’s employees and the Batras‘ extended relatives. Jatin Goswami, Santhy, and Chandan Roy may not be in the spotlight, but that doesn’t make their contributions any less significant in the film. In a very soft manner, the drama centred on raw emotions, mundane interactions, and other life details.
‘Gulmohar’ is co-written by Rahul and Arpita Mukherjee and is their most introspective work. Almost every Indian family, formerly tightly knit but now broken up into nuclear units, has this common and fond experience. The tenderness of the writing is evident in the attention paid to the tiniest of details.
Simran is as impressive in her role as Indu, Manoj’s wife. They pair together well on film. A special shout-out to her for exemplifying what is considered an ‘ideal daughter-in-law’ who cares for her family, takes responsibility for the home, and worries about everyone. As a wife, her character has little nuances that separate it from typical portrayals on-screen. In a particular scene, she opposes the notion that she is not ‘Durga Maa with ten hands’ who can handle everything.
Simran gives an excellent performance as a Tamil lady who marries a Punjabi guy. Her depiction of the feisty character is a sharp contrast to Sharmila’s refined demeanour.
Amol Palekar convincingly portrays Manoj’s self-centred and resentful uncle Sudhakar Batra. Kaveri Seth, Utsavi Jha, and Suraj Sharma, among others, all provide impressive performances in supporting roles.
The film’s visual style becomes more consistent as the plot develops and the characters’ histories are revealed, either bringing them closer together or provoking conflict. There are sweet moments of Kusum with her granddaughter Amrita as they reflect on her life as a mother and grandmother together. There’s nothing particularly remarkable about the fact that two of these characters are homosexual; such portrayals are standard fare in every other movie these days.
There’s a definite voice in the film; much about being a parent, bringing up a child, and the hopes and dreams you have for that child. Manoj Bajpayee excels in the role of a son and father. His chemistry with Sharmila Tagore is fascinating to see, and the two of them together steal every scene.
The film isn’t quite lively or intense, so fans of slow-paced dramas will love it. In some situations, though, the pace is purposefully slowed down a little from what it may have been in order to maintain the attention of the audience.
The thoughts of Sharmila Tagore on what is meant to be and what isn’t will linger in your mind long after you’ve finished the movie.
The director doesn’t stray from the plot throughout the film. Even if there’s undoubtedly more space for catharsis and deeper exploration of these intricate tales, it doesn’t make this one any less satisfying.
For a film that stays steady and devoid of trappings for so long, Gulmohar is jolted by a twist that is crucial for the plot but perplexing for the audience. A little backstory has never done anyone any harm, just saying. The storyline surprise featuring a guy from Jamshedpur magically appearing in Delhi seems too artificial for a film that stays steady and devoid of trappings for so long.
Overall, ‘Gulmohar’ is a great representation of the family drama genre. You can watch Gulmohar on Disney+ Hotstar.