The movie, directed by Rahul V. Chittella, hits all the right notes when it comes to tapping family dynamics. Here, the audience goes from misunderstanding the people we are looking at to understanding them only from a different perspective. A Disney+ Hotstar original, “Gulmohar,” is all about a family trying to find a way back to unlearn plenty of things about each other. There is a palatial home named “Gulmohar ” that nests three generations of the family, who now seem disconnected from each other. The matriarch Kusum Batra is planning to sell the home and shift to Pondicherry; meanwhile, her son Arun Batra is moving to another palatial apartment, while his son Aditya is moving to a smaller apartment with his wife. Even though they seem like a tight-knit family, there has been tension brewing for a while, especially in Arun. Arun is the epitome of an affectionate son who would do anything for the family. He is the only son of Kusum and Prabhakar Batra, and Arun made sure to be the son who did not ruin the business empire created by his father. Arun took care of the business and expanded it when it came under his wing.
Arun, played by Manoj Bajpai, is confused and has also been feeling low-key betrayed because his mother has decided to sell the house he grew up in. She is also moving to Pondicherry, which is another set of news that sent shockwaves through the family once again. Arun, along with his wife Indu and his kids, is clueless about their mother’s decision to move to Pondicherry. He is heartbroken, sentimental, and slightly overwhelmed by the fact that the only place he considers home is going to be someone else’s. The worst part about his feelings is that his home was sold by his mother without consulting him or Indu. Arun cannot come to terms with the fact that the place where he grew up, becoming the man that he is, suddenly, will cease to exist, and out of nowhere, he will have to start rebuilding memories in another place, and hopefully, they will be good ones too.
Arun is an adopted child of Kusum and Prabhakar, and it is a known fact in the family, and Arun himself is aware of the fact. But under no circumstances has Arun ever been made to feel like an outsider. Everyone in the family loves him to bits, including his cousin Kamal. The only person who never had a close, heartfelt relationship with Arun because he was an adopted son is his father’s brother, Sudhakar Batra, who has made his stance clear on several occasions. Sudhakar Batra is a man of all things traditional, and if things had gone his way, the family would have remained traditional. But Kusum, to protect Arun from a life of hostility, had decided to move him away from her in-laws. For Arun, the only love he carried for his parents was like any parent-child relationship. There was never a discussion about his background to make him feel inferior at any point while growing up. Arun also modeled his life as a caring, loving husband and son after that of his father and chose to remain the same for years. Though his relationship with his son Aditya is on the rocks right now, Arun’s love and respect for Aditya never dwindled at any point.
The family has been so and so since the patriarch died, and Arun himself has taken it upon himself to find his roots. To discover where he came from and how his destiny changed when Kusum decided to adopt him and raise him as her son. Arun was not a big believer in destiny, but his wanting to know his father adds to his curiosity about where he would have been if not for his parent’s decision to accept him into their home. He got very close to speaking to his biological father, but he never had the strength to get out of his car and maybe have a conversation with strangers or just introduce himself as the son he abandoned years ago. As his wife states, Arun is afraid of big changes in his life, and that’s the reason why he is fidgety about the big move—his son moving out of their home and starting something on his own. Arun has never wanted to get out of his comfort zone, and approaching his biological father is a big step towards accepting that there was a life he might not have had. He does not know if his biological father was a good person or not, and Arun is not quite ready to face the reality of what his biological father might now think of him.
Arun is also struggling to understand what his son Aditya wants from life. Arun always believed in helping his son sort out his life and willingly contributed to it, hoping he could be of some assistancein sorting out Aditya’s new start-up. Aditya has a tough time factoring in his father’s help, and Arun does not understand why Aditya would want to be on his own when he could help them seamlessly. His feeling of disconnect with his son also puts Arun in a bad state of mind. Father and son are constantly at loggerheads because there is obviously a generation gap, which is not narrowing as the days go by. Arun is trying to understand the headspace his son is in and is willing to come to terms with the fact that Aditya wants to do something on his own and not rely on his father’s capital or contacts.
His world comes crashing down when Indu comes across the legal documents of the home, which include the last will of his father. The will stated that the “Gulmohar” home would be written off to Prabhakar’s brother Sudhakar because Arun is not the biological son of Prabhakar. Arun is devastated not to have lost the home but to realize after all this he was never considered his own by his father and, to some extent, his mother because she was one of the witnesses who signed the will. Arun’s body, mind, and soul are shattered like glass, and there is no way to make him feel better from here on. His only qualm was that he tried to save a home from being sold, which was never his from the beginning. Even though his wife and his cousin, children, and nephews never wanted this fate for Arun, he cannot help but wonder if they think of him as someone who can never be a real part of the family, just like his father and uncle did. His walking out of his home is an indication of him finally losing everything close to him. His parents, the home he grew up in, and the memories attached to “Gulmohar.” His disconnect with his son also adds to the anxiety, for he wonders if, like his father, his son would also not want him. Arun’s gravitation towards his biological father too increases with the will-related incident, and he finally decides to confront the man.
Arun, at no point, reveals himself as the man’s son. His biological father owns a small eatery just off the highway and is financially in a bad state. Arun still cannot imagine how his life would have been dramatically different. After the incident at home, he can only hope the biological father does not claim that he was happy to have let his son go, which would mean Arun will be rejected not just by his adopted father but also by his biological father. If that latter happens, Arun will end up questioning his identity altogether, which will be overwhelming for him, and he might end up having a mental breakdown. The biological father regrets giving his son away but claims to have prayed for his good life and happiness. Arun snaps and responds that a child deserves to be raised with love, not just prayed for.
He feels his life has come to a full circle. Even though he knows it wasn’t his mother’s mistake when she signed the document without realizing what she signed for, he knows his mother would never betray him. His mother chose to raise him with love unlike his biological father who abandoned with the hope someone would raise Arun right with all the love and care. He finally understands the difference between what his biological father did and what his mother Kusum did for him. He understands even parents make mistakes, but instead of putting them on a pedestal, Arun realizes that maybe for once, he can look at them as human beings who err. His journey from being a man who was afraid of confrontation finally brings him to terms with the truth he was seeking. He is at peace now, and he can peacefully let go of his past and move on to make new memories.