Sometimes when there are a series of poorly made films, and you write these reviews saying they are outdated, cheesy, cliched, melodramatic, etc., a part of you tends to wonder whether you are canceling a whole genre saying it all should look realistic. Rahul V. Chittella’s Gulmohar was a relief and delight for me in that aspect. It is a movie that shows you that the family drama genre can be melodramatic and filmy and yet extremely heartfelt if reinvented smartly. Within its runtime of 131 minutes, Rahul V. Chittella and Arpita Mukherjee created a beautiful tale that stays with you because of its positivity that looks practical.
The Batra family who lives in this bungalow named Gulmohar is the center of attraction of the story. After 34 years of residing in that beautiful house, the Batras are moving out. On the last eve of their stay, the mother, Kusum Batra, expresses her wish to celebrate Holi there, which happens in 4 days. Initially reluctant, Kusum’s son Arun eventually agrees to his mother’s wish. What happens in that family during that 4 days is what we witness in Gulmohar.
The idea of a dysfunctional family is an easily relatable yet rarely explored theme in our movies. Gulmohar tries to utilize that theme, and the good thing about the script is that it accommodates a lot of emotions using the platform set by the joint family backdrop. The script structure is actually a bit formulaic. They have attached an unresolved tension with almost every character. Arun’s fear of crossing the road, Adi’s reluctance to accept his father’s help, Amu’s insecurity in disclosing her sexuality, the security guy Jeetu Bhaiyya’s complex of being uneducated, etc. are some of the hurdles that the makers have planted in the movie. And you somewhat generate empathy towards all these characters at some point in the story.
Rahul V. Chittella uses visual language to show the shift in drama and the tension in the air. The movie opens with a celebration moment where the camera makes the viewer feel like a guest. The frames suddenly become static when Kusum expresses her wish to celebrate Holi. This technique of frantic to static is somewhat repeating in the movie’s visual treatment, and it is not a very evident tool. I think that somewhere gives you space to think about a particular character who is going through so much at that moment. The pacing of the editing was great, in my opinion. That pacing helps the movie accommodate and register many characters in a minimalistic time frame. The background score is soothing.
Sharmila Tagore, as Kusum Batra, occasionally goes back to that old-school style of acting. But she adds a certain level of restraint to her performance so that the grandmother character looks cool and vulnerable simultaneously. Manoj Bajpayee is given the meatier role as Arun Batra. The character has a different equation with his mother, brother, wife, and son. Bajpayee’s performance looks so authentic, and the sequence where he meets the restaurant owner was so gut-wrenching to watch. Suraj Sharma as Aditya Batra was fine in his role, along with Utsavi Jha as Amrita Batra. Jatin Goswamy as Jeetu Bhaiyya portrayed the insecurities of the lonely lover very neatly, and Santhy Balachandran as Reshma was also quite memorable. Simran’s character was a very significant one. But, the only shortcoming of the movie, in my opinion, is that her character somewhere got ignored, even though she literally took control of the wheels when the husband was in a fragile state of mind (reminded me of the Bangalore Days scene).
Gulmohar is a movie that feels like what if a Sooraj Barjatya movie had the cinematic aesthetic of a Kapoor & Sons. The hesitance to tell the truth to the people dear to you, the reluctance to seek help to prove your mettle, etc., are the emotions driving this family drama forward. With that pleasant twist at the very end of the film, I had the happiest smile in a very long time after a movie.
Gulmohar is a movie that feels like what if a Sooraj Barjatya movie had the cinematic aesthetic of a Kapoor & Sons.
Green: Recommended Content
Orange: The In-Between Ones
Red: Not Recommended