Gulmohar Movie Review: Emotionally Cold

Gulmohar is beautifully written but badly directed. The story has emotional complexities that if dealt well with could have taken this film to another level. From afar, everyone loves joint families living in plush bungalows. Take a closer look and you find everything inside is broken, especially people. While some want to break free, others try hard to hold on to what is still left of the family. 

Gulmohar is a story of one such joint family who is now going their own ways. While the bungalow is sold to the builder, Arun Batra (Manoj Bajpayee) plans to move to an apartment along with his family, but the family has other plans. The story revolves around what unfolds as they get ready to move out of Gulmohar. 

Story of Hotstar’s Gulmohar 

The story opens from a family get together at Gulmohar as the family’s last reunion at the bungalow. As the party ends, Kusum Batra, Arun Batra’s mother proposes to celebrate one last holi in the house. But that seems impossible as movers and packers are about to start moving stuff out of the house from the very next day. Also, the hotel is booked for the family. While all of this discussion is happening, we are also informed that Arun’s son, Aditya has planned to live independently in a rented house with his wife, Divya which is why his father is upset as well as pissed. As all of this is happening, Arun’s mother drops another bomb. She announces that she has decided to move to Pondicherry and not with the family to an apartment. This further upsets and pisses Arun and this time, his wife, Indu as well. 

This is the foundation of Gulmohar, the film. As the movie moves forward, we are introduced to more characters, all at the same time – from Batra family’s cook, Reshma and their security guard, Jeetu to Param and Irfan. These characters have their own story unfolding in the background – a love triangle to quickly tell you what it is. 

Now, coming back to the Batra family. With time, we are told that Arun is not the biological son of the Batra family. Though he is the one who took his father’s business to international markets and is the key reason behind its success, his father, in his will has clearly mentioned that since he is adopted, the house will later be passed on to his brother, Sudhakar (played by Amol Palaekar) and his son. This will, when found, breaks down Arun and he visits his biological father. Now, how he knows who his father is, I am clueless about. I don’t know if I missed something in the story but this is a track I did not find an answer to. 

As Kusum has decided to settle in Pondicherry after Gulmohar is taken down, does Arun bring home his biological father? Why is Kusum keen on moving to Pondicherry? What has she left behind that she wants to chase? To know that, you will have to watch Gulmohar. 

Now, as you know the plot of Gulmohar, you will realise that the story has a lot of potential as there are a lot of characters and multiple stories unfolding themselves parallelly. 

Arun, not being included in the will, and Kusum’s signature on a will paper, opens a can of worms that brings along a lot of emotional upheaval. Though as a writer, Rahul Chittella explored the emotional ride that Arun, his family, and the entire family goes on after the revelation; as a director, he missed the opportunity to take the audience along on that emotional ride. 

You know what the characters are going through but you don’t feel those emotions while watching the movie. And if you are not emotionally involved in a poignant film, it is clearly a failure. 

Also, there was no strong hold on other stories and characters. Since they have been given equal attention and screen-space, they should have been equally important for the audience. Unfortunately, they look like a waste of time and not needed in the story. This is not the writing’s fault, this is the direction’s fault. 

If you read Gulmohar as a novel, I am sure every character will stand out and there will be a pretty good reason why they exist. Sharmila Tagore’s character Kusum being a bisexual and not forgetting her first love, a lesbian love would have been well justified. In the movie, the track isn’t convincing enough. This twist, in itself, was a topic was debate and discussion. I honestly see a lot of missed opportunities here when it comes to dealing with complexities of relationships, and life on whole.

Should you watch Gulmohar then? Of course, you cannot not watch Manoj Bajpayee and his wonderful performance. The way he holds the movie together is outstanding. Watch it for him, if for nothing else. 

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Streaming On: Disney+ Hotstar

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