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Review | Gulmohar – Scentless Fragrance

Gulmohar is a family drama film directed by Rahul V. Chittella. It features Manoj Bajpayee, Sharmila Tagore, Suraj Sharma and Amol Palekar. Gulmohar is streaming on Disney+Hotstar.

Review Overview

General Rating


Scentless Fragrance
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Rewind to the days of Mira Nair’s Monsoon Wedding when a large family gathering that looked like a celebration was put under the microscope to show up unresolved tensions that dated back to childhood.

Its influence is evident on director Rahul V Chittella who once assisted Mira. Inside a spacious bungalow teeming with domestic staff and creaking with family members, Rahul and co-writer Arpita Mukherjee throw a winding-up party. The Batra family house has been sold and amidst liquor, music, furtive glances and conversation, it’s only the tension between Arun (Manoj Bajpayee) and grownup son Aditya (Suraj Sharma) that’s upfront and present. Everything else is simmering unseen.    

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Chittella’s outline is warm, wonderful, beautiful. Elegant widow Kusum Batra (Sharmila Tagore), established as broadminded from the moment she asks her granddaughter for a small brandy, drops two unexpected announcements on the family that has gathered for one last fling under the same roof. 

There are expected groans and ripples with each one’s innate nature surfacing. Arun is the responsible son who wants to keep the family together. Mom Kusum and son Aditya have their own plans. A few also have secrets of their own.

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Unwelcome in this otherwise harmonious family with common values is Sudhakar Batra (Amol Palekar), the older uncle who won’t budge from timeworn beliefs. His own kids find him problematic. 

After each one’s character has been peeled off and there is a slump in the pace, Chittella throws a twist. 

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The broad plot of what holds a family together is cosy. It’s in the detailing that the director seems like a schoolboy who’s being quizzed by his teacher. Rahul, have you been inclusive? ‘Yes, ma’am. I have a gay track (mandatory, you know), even a hint of Madhuri’s act in Maja Ma. I have upper class bigotry, I have Hindu-Muslim domestic staff inclusivity, I have a calibrated mix of English, Hindi and sudden Tamizh dialogues, I have bloodline and adoption and I have Mira Ma’am’s favourite, the bigoted Hindu.’ 

Well done, Rahul. I hope you have smart-alecky dialogues?

‘Of course. Apart from a “yes or no” ultimatum that Arun and wife Indu (Simran) share with no context provided, I also have Sharmilaji dimpling, “It was meant to be” at different moments.’ 

It’s established quite early that Arun was adopted by Kusum and her late husband, so that’s not a spoiler.

It’s also not Rahul’s bucket list that makes the film stumble here and there. What’s loose are bits of convenient legal clumsiness and, for a film that’s verbose enough to painstakingly articulate every person’s dilemma and thought process, there are several unexplained tracks. A sample: why is the villain of the family drama on the mat and labelled ‘Tumhare jaise log’? Only for in-your-face, old-fashioned bigotry? Because when there’s a twist, this person who has made no claims for five years, doesn’t quite come off as a villain. In fact, those with secrets are the ones who seem more accountable.

There is also much room created for music but not a single tune is catchy or melodious. 

In this potpourri of suppressed stories, Chittella gets his casting right. Sharmila Tagore with her discreetly classy sarees and coiffed silver hair, gives Kusum the right touch of dignity and sophistication.

While the supporting cast also does its job with efficiency, Manoj Bajpayee gets into his groove after the ‘twist’. Watch, for instance, the way he throws the word ‘adopted’. One notch higher would’ve rendered it dramatic, one note lower wouldn’t have been emphatic. It’s the well-calibrated tone during an emotional moment that makes Manoj Bajpayee a watchable actor.

Watch Gulmohar Trailer:

Check Out: Review | Selfiee – Tough To Click

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Scentless FragranceReview | Gulmohar - Scentless Fragrance