Gulmohar movie review: This intriguing family saga is convincing and convoluted at the same time
Gulmohar movie review: The film is a bittersweet tale of a family, its values, and the fact that everyone is living their lives somewhere between fate and the choices they make.
Cast: Sharmila Tagore, Manoj Bajpayee, Simran, Suraj Sharma, Amol Palekar
Director: Rahul V Chittella
Family sagas that are high on emotions and portray generational gaps in the most relatable manner have long been enjoyed by movie buffs. Director Rahul V Chittella's Gulmohar creates a world where three generations of Batras are living together, celebrating and being a part of each other's ups and downs. But deep down, they harbour discontent, and that's when things start to fall apart. Gulmohar is interesting, but the trailer might have shown way more than what was required. (Also Read | Sharmila Tagore reveals she cried 'profusely' after watching her film Gulmohar for third time)
The film follows the family's last four days together, before they move out of their 32-year-old ancestral home. During a happy get-together with the extended family, the matriarch, Kusum Batra (Sharmila Tagore), expresses her wish that the family stays back for a couple of more days to celebrate their last Holi in this house, while also letting them know about her decision to move to Puducherry and live alone. Her son, Arun (Manoj Bajpayee), is left bewildered. He was already dealing with the unsettling thought that his son, Adi (Suraj Sharma), doesn't want to live with his parents in the new house, but in a rented accommodation with his partner. During the four days, Batras spend in Gulmohar Villa, every member gets to unravel secrets about their own existence, and about each other also, which leads to their relationships falling apart and some, getting thicker.
The first half is very engaging, but the film loses pace in the second half so much that you want the climax to arrive soon. Chittella and Arpita Mukherjee's story is extremely layered, which is great, to begin with. But beyond a point, the narrative becomes a bit convoluted. Everybody seems to be beating around the bush with nobody saying things upfront. I mean, you struggle to figure out the actual cause of why the family fell apart in the first place.
At 132 minutes, the film needed much better editing. A few subplots initially looked like they'd play a crucial part but end up being half-baked. The portions between Reshma, the cook, and Jeetu, the security guard of Gulhomar Villa and their brewing romance are good and intriguing, but they could have been easily chopped to keep the film's screenplay more focused and crisper.
I quite like complex characters if their stories have scope to be explored. But in Gulmohar, stories of such characters are left unexplored. Having said that, the film beautifully explores the father-son conflict (Bajpayee and Sharma), mother-son equation (Tagore and Bajpayee), grandma- granddaughter bond (Tagore and Utsavi Jha). And honestly, that's the part you truly enjoy. Another thing that stands out is the way it highlights the hidden desires of women, the sacrifices a mother makes to give her kids a better life. The scenes between Kusum and her granddaughter Amrita, where Kusum talks about her early days, marriage, and motherhood are so endearing.
Emotionally charged performances are the highlight of Gulmohar. It is a delight watching Tagore on screen after over a decade. The elegance and poise she exudes are remarkable. Her dialogue delivery, gestures, body language, emotions- everything looks just so effortless even after this hiatus. The way she talks of her philosophy of 'Everything is meant to be, or not' stays with you. Bajpayee, as someone who balances the duties of a son, husband and father while finding traces of his own reality, is moving. Simran, as Arun's wife Indu, is terrific (you'd know if you've watched her in Rocketry: The Nambi Effect as R Madhavan's onscreen wife). As the strongest pillar of the family, she has a sense of calm even in moments of hassle. Amol Palekar as Sudhakar Batra, Kusum's brother-in-law, is someone you love to hate. His dialogues are possibly the best and his character, the most layered. Sharma, I felt, didn't get much scope to show his acting chops, as he mostly sits at one corner with his wooden expressions and gets only a few lines towards the end.
Gulmohar is a bittersweet tale of a family, its values, and the fact that everyone is living their lives somewhere between fate and the choices they make. Watch it for some touching performances and characters that may feel familiar. Gulmohar is now streaming on Disney+ Hotstar.