Tag Archives: Sharmila Tagore

Movie Review: Gulmohar (2023)

3 Stars (out of 4)

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As the members of the tight-knit Batra family prepare to go their separate ways, secrets threaten to create an irreparable rift. Strong performances and sensitive writing make Gulmohar a touching family drama.

Gulmohar is the name of the family’s Delhi estate built 34 years ago by Prabhakar Batra, the deceased head of the family. His widow Kusum (Sharmila Tagore) is selling the house and announces at a farewell party her intention to move to Pondicherry by herself. Her son Arun (Manoj Bajpayee) and his wife Indu (Simran) bought a large, new penthouse apartment assuming the whole family would continue to live together, but their son Adi (Suraj Sharma) and his wife Divya (Kaveri Seth) are looking for their own place, too.

Arun is not coping well with these changes. His father built their house as a symbol of family togetherness, and Arun idolized his dad. Arun’s discovery that not everyone had the same future plans as he did rattles him.

There are more secrets simmering under the surface of the Batra clan, none more shocking than the contents of a will dictated by Prabhakar that Kusum had kept hidden. But the root of the family’s problems is a tendency not to talk to one another, not just about troubles but about positive feelings as well. For example, Adi is convinced that he’s a disappointment to his father, and everyone tells him that’s not true — except for Arun.

Though the drama comes from all of the things that are going wrong for the Batra family, the movie is really about all of the things that they do right. Kusum’s belief in personal freedom and open-mindedness instills in all of the Batras a desire to chase unconventional dreams and love freely, safe in the knowledge that their family will always be there to support them. The family dynamic enables writer-director Rahul V. Chittella to weave LGBTQ subplots into the story.

Chittella’s screenplay is well-constructed. I re-watched the first five minutes of the film, and it’s impressive how many of the seeds of future conflicts are planted in that short span of time and how subtly it’s done. The opening scene is a large family party that introduces the major characters, and information is dispensed through snippets of conversations and even via the way people move throughout the house. It feels very natural, and only upon revisiting it did I realize how much work the scene was doing.

The whole cast is terrific, and all of the actors play off each other beautifully. Bajpayee and Simran are especially delightful as a married couple. The soundtrack is wonderful, with “Woh Ghar” being the standout track.

If there’s any complaint about Gulmohar, it’s that it could have looked more polished. The edges of shots are often blurry, giving frames a distracting, almost fish-eye effect. Still, that’s a minor knock against a movie that does a nice job of being what it wants to be: nice.


Movie Review: Break Ke Baad (2010)

3.5 Stars (out of 4)

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Buy the soundtrack at Amazon

I have a hard time being objective when it comes to Deepika Padukone. I adore her. She’s one of the world’s best actresses at the moment, and she’s only 24. But I think I can say with some measure of professional detachment that Break Ke Baad (“After the Break”) could be her most nuanced work to date. It’s worth seeing just for her.

Padukone plays Aaliya, a 20-year-old wild child who aspires to an acting career against the objections of her mother, Ayesha (Sharmila Tagore), herself a former screen idol. Aaliya’s in a relationship with her childhood best friend and long-time sweetheart, Abhay Gulati (Imran Khan). With Abhay poised to take over operations of his dad’s movie theater, everyone assumes that “Al” and “Gelato” will soon be married.

This is fine with Abhay, even though he hates his job and has no life outside of Aaliya. But Aaliya wants to experience the world first, though she doesn’t come out and say it. Instead, she secretly applies to a one-year Communications program in Australia and only tells Abhay about it when she complains that Ayesha won’t let her go.

Eventually, Aaliya leaves for Australia, and she gets Abhay to consent to “a little break.” But, to Aaliya’s annoyance, he won’t stop calling, going so far as to show up at her house one day. Aaliya finally breaks up with him for good, but Abhay refuses to leave Australia without her. He works a variety of jobs in the hopes of finding one he really likes.

Writers Danish Aslam and Renuka Kunzru have a real understanding of what it’s like to be at that age where you’re desperate to chart an independent course for your life, but still eager for parental approval. The dialog is thoughtful, as when Ayesha tells selfish Aaliya that people don’t love her because she’s special, she’s special because a few people love her intensely.

Nuanced writing requires skilled acting to make it come to life, and Padukone does that with Aaliya. Aaliya is careless of others’ feelings in a way unique to pretty girls in their early twenties. She usually gets her way, so she doesn’t worry about the manner in which she does so.

Padukone is careful to make Aaliya simultaneously lovable and frustrating. Aaliya’s obviously fun, and she is caring, but she also deflects blame onto others and fails to consider their feelings before she acts. Padukone manages to show Aaliya’s potential for growth despite her current faults.

Khan has a somewhat detached performance style that actually works for Abhay, who’s simply going along with whatever life throws at him. He doesn’t get worked up about much because he doesn’t know what he wants, nor does he consider the possibility that things won’t work out for him. Khan does a nice job playing low-key opposite Padukone’s more dynamic character.

Supporting characters Nadia (Shahana Goshwami) and Cyrus (Yudhishtir Urs), beach-bum siblings living off their inheritance, keep the plot moving. Misanthropic Nadia’s sarcasm is on point and forces Aaliya and Abhay to act. Horndog Cyrus provides the comic relief. The lead characters’ parents are also good, though I would’ve liked to see more of their relationships with their kids.

Break Ke Baad may not be as universally relevant as some romantic comedies, but it knows its characters well and portrays them with sophistication. This would be a great movie to show to teens as a guide for “how not to act in a few years.” Not that they’d listen, of course, but at least they’d be entertained.