Disney+ Hotstar film “Gulmohar” marks the comeback film of veteran Indian actor Sharmila Tagore and the feature debut of Rahul V. Chittella.
Tagore, who debuted with Satyajit Ray’s “The World of Apu” (1959) was last seen in “Break Ke Baad” (2010). Chittella has directed a few shorts and previously worked with “Monsoon Wedding” filmmaker Mira Nair.
The cast also includes Manoj Baypayee (Rotterdam competition film “Joram”), Suraj Sharma (“Life of Pi”), Amol Palekar (“Farzi”) and Simran (“Petta”).
Set in Delhi, “Gulmohar” follows the final four days of the Batra family living in their 34-year-old family home as they move to a new city.
The film, co-written by Arpita Mukherjee and Chittella, was born out of the latter’s experiences of having lived and worked in Nair’s house in Delhi, which was subsequently sold.
“I was in Delhi for some meetings in early 2019 and visited the house as it was getting packed up. As I saw all my favorite paintings and photographs get removed from the walls by the movers and packers, that was when I got the idea of having Arpita’s and my story of familial ties be placed against the backdrop of a home being sold and getting packed up over the next four days,” Chittella told Variety.
“Gulmohar” is designed as a heartwarming family film. “I wanted to explore the meaning of family and home in current times, the only two things that have ever mattered, more so now than ever. I wanted to explore the idea of togetherness in times when we are building walls between each other,” Chittella said. “My assistant once asked me – ‘Why can’t we go a bit dark with the script?’ But Arpita and I clearly wanted our characters to smile, cry, and love together. It was perhaps the phase of life that we were in. There’s too much polarization and darkness and divide among ourselves. We need to sit back, breathe and feel each other’s presence. It’s a real treasure that we often take for granted.”
Chittella describes the experience of working with Tagore and Bajpayee as “beautiful and ecstatic” and that the seasoned actors helped immensely in getting the junior cast members “surrender to the idea of being in an ensemble piece.”
“Gulmohar” streams from March 3.
Watch the trailer here: