What’s family? They’re a bunch of people you’re saddled with due to an accident of birth and with whom you share a crazy bond. You love and hate them equally. You can’t live with them and can’t live without them either. Every family has a bunch of skeletons hidden about. What happens when they all tumble out one after the other. Will the sanctity of the familial bond still lie intact or would it be broken on a rock of woe. Gulmohar, directed by debutant Rahul V Chittella, tells the story of Delhi-based Batras, who are moving out of their posh Delhi bungalow, named Gulmohar, after a gap of 34 years. The villa has been sold, the packers are moving in and in the midst of it all, the matriarch of the house, Kusum (Sharmila Tagore), wants to celebrate one last Holi together with her kith and kin before everyone goes their separate ways. Perhaps this sudden decision to do away with the family home deals a blow to the already fragile egos of the family members.
Arun (Manoj Bajpayee), is unhappy with the slacker lifestyle of his son Aditya (Suraj Sharma), who’s trying to become an entrepreneur. His daughter is going through relationship problems of her own, while his wife (Simran) is trying to hold the family together. Then there’s the other brood of the Batras, belonging to Kusum’s brother-in-law Sudhakar (Amol Palekar). While they’re well-off, they aren’t as rich as Kusum and Arun and that has always rankled with Sudhakar. He wants the property for himself and may have the means to do so. Things start unravelling for the elder branch of Batras. It begins with Arun’s obsession of trying to find his biological father – he’s adopted and always feels alienated, despite that not being the case. Aditya can’t find investors for his app and Kusum might be harbouring a secret that might disrupt the relationships further. Amidst all this, there’s another subplot revolving around their pretty cook and the illiterate watchman who’s in love with her. Just when you feel that things have reached a point of no return, they right themselves.
Every home resonates with a rhythm of its own and the same is the case with Gulmohar as well. It takes a while for you to accentuate yourself to the rhythm but once you become accustomed to it, you start to get the feel of the various layers that intersect each other at various points. The people living in Gulmohar are hurting because they feel their burden is theirs to bear alone. But sharing is one of the pillars of a strong family and once they open up about their troubles to each other, the solutions suggest themselves. It takes a while for the knots to unravel but once that happens the tension lessens. There’s no artificiality in the film. The emotions all feel real. You identify with the struggles of each member and the sympathy you feel for them comes holistically and isn’t forced.
There are very few hiccups in the screenplay and whatever niggles there are have been glossed over by the superlative acting. The director couldn’t have asked for a better cast than this. What a comeback Amol Palekar has been having. First Farzi and now this. Though he doesn’t have as much screen time we wished he had, he makes an impact in the scenes he features in. And Sharmila Tagore, seen here after more than a decade – she was last seen in 2010 release Break Ke Baad – hasn’t lost any of her charm or her natural ease in front of the camera during this break. Like any other grandmother, she has a soft corner for everyone around her and takes care to come to their aid in any which way she can. Her relationship with her son is warm and cordial but fraught with tragic undertones at the same time. Manoj Bajpayee excels as Arun. He grows into the character with every frame and makes you believe you’re watching a real person and not something fictional. His sense of uprootedness is in contrast with the love and respect he gets from everyone. He’s aware of the dichotomy and yet doesn’t want to let go of his insecurities. It’s a sensitive portrayal of a troubled soul and Manoj should be lauded for the deft touch he displays.
Watch the film for the inspired acting displayed by the entire cast and its true-to-life portrayal of a dysfunctional family.