Movie Review | Enjoy the rich canopy of Gulmohar'
DECCAN CHRONICLE | L. Ravichander
The tree with its red bright flowers brightens up the Indian roads. Radiant and warm it is as colourful as any other ornamental tree that could brighten up the atmosphere.
Far from the bright hues and in a contrasting subdued narrative Rahul Chittella takes us through the dysfunctional but warm family headed for once, by a lady and not the archetype patriarch. After a slew of burning underbelly tales of human negativity, it is refreshing, to say the least, that a filmmaker is willing to look at human emotions outside of crime, killing, drugs and gun-trotting men and women.
In an elitist family in Delhi, it is celebration time. The celebrations are, however, underlined with a sense of melancholy since the family mansion Gulmohar is up for sale.
The entire two hours odd is ideally suited to be watched in the precincts of the drawing room. This in itself is a welcome feature when you don’t have abusive language, bouts of physically intimate depictions and gun-trotting men all around the place.
Kusum (Sharmila Tagore) is the 76-year-old grand old lady who has come to terms with the need to move out and move on. Her son Arun (Manoj Bajpayee) has his wife Indu (Simran) and their children Amrita (Utsavi Jha) and son Aditya Batra (Suraj Sharma).
Suraj and his wife Divya (Kaveri Seth) are unwilling to play along the elitist, cosy lifestyle of comfort and convenience. Adventurous to a fault, they dream big and hope to make a mark on their own. This evokes a stereotypical crisis brewing between dad Arun and son Aditya.
Kusum announces that they would stay in the house for the next few days and not move into a hotel as was planned and would proceed to celebrate the last Holi.
The family has its moments of warmth, it’s spells of angst. Its highs and its lows. Its oneness and also its craving for the solitary. Like any family, people live with their little secrets. There is hardly any judgemental stance that the filmmaker is tempted to take. In fact, he studiously eschews being judgemental. It suits the style and the flow of the script.
Men and women are real. They are not superiors. They are not ugly parasites. They do not anger you. They do not disappoint you. Apart from being good on the eye, they occupy their own space of self-respect, notwithstanding the little real-life challenges they are confronted with- Karan Johar and Aditya Chopra please take note that when you talk family you don’t have to go over the top. For instance, could Karan have had La Tagore in ‘Kabhi Kushi Kabhi Gham’? By her very presence would she have not toned down the Jaya glamour?
Also in the family are the domestic help including Reshma (Santhy Balchander), the two migrant labourers Jitendar (Jatin Goswami) and Paramhans (Chandan Roy). There is the vociferous domestic help Surekha (Tripti Sahu) whose lives are connected yet independent and find a non-intrusive place.
At one stage of the film, Kusum declares where we are born, and where we grow is all about destiny. But what we want to become is what we decide and that is what we finally are. That is our legacy. Sounds elitist but doesn’t hurt. This is one more factor that hurts in favour of Gulmohar.
Spaced largely in the emotive areas, the class luxury becomes a non-debatable facet of the package. To romanticize even poverty like when Arun walks into the hut to which he legitimately belongs is a thematically earned space entrenched in credibility and poised not to grotesquely take off but to hold onto an emotive premise arguably suggesting that the wealthy two have their own challenges and issues.
At one stage, Divya tells her husband "that is so 1970s even Hindi films have moved ahead! Gulmohar certainly has".
Without much ado, it has taken a gentle but firm step away from the contemporary content and style of stories and storytelling. The steps are not thuds, yet definitive. The filmmaker is so much in command of what he wants to say and how subtle he can be.
Be it the relationship between the mother and the son; the father and the son; cousins, a scheming uncle; or the daughter who is trying to find her freedom in her sexual choice - the shock of the most modern grandmother. The brewing romance between the domestic helps, add to the tapestry and enrich the final fabric.
Everyone in the cast fit into the roles with near perfection. Be it Tripti Sahu, Simran, Santhy, or Anurag Arora, all of them add credibility to the space they occupy.
Amol Palekar carries shades of grey with a finesse that is typically Amol. In fact ‘Anmol’.
Simran as the simmering daughter-in-law carries herself with grace. Fortunately, she is not replicating what she would do in her South Indian films. Finally, the film truly belongs to Manoj Bajpayee and Sharmila Tagore. The hope-disappointment matrix that Manoj interprets is a treat to watch. His bitterness is so endearing and his warmth so bitter! He seems to fit Arun Batra’s role like a glove. Arguably, one of his best outings.
It has been a long while since La Tagore fans have seen her in a substantial role unrealistically charming and suave. This lady is re-spelling of grace and talent. Her capacity to emote without overstating is a stand-alone space. At one stage Amol Palekar tells her when did you ever listen to anyone? You are your own master always. How true. This is vintage Sharmila Tagore.
Some scenes in the film stand out. For instance, when Manoj and Suraj Sharma have a tiff in the car; a final clash between Amol and Sharmila and the scene when she realises that her granddaughter has alternate sexual preferences. As does ‘Gulmohar’.
Director: Rahul Chittella
Cast: Sharmila Tagore, Manoj Bajpayee, Simran, Amol Palekar
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