Puglit Film Cast: Sanya Malhotra, Shruti Sharma, Ashutosh Rana, Sheeba Chaddha, Raghubir Yadav, Shruti Sharma, Rajesh Telang, Sayani Gupta, Jamil Khan, Shire Hashmi
Puglit Film Director: Umesh Bisht
Paglit movie star rating: 2.5 stars
‘Pagal’, a slang sting-in for the sting of ‘Pagal’ (Mad), is revealed by a young woman who has lost her husband. His elder Kunba (family), who lives in an old, sprawling ‘Kothi’ in a north Indian city, is trying to experience the aftermath of a sudden death. It revolves around conversations between extended family members, mentioning the recent state of marriage, and, here, how ‘daughter-in-law’ Sandhya (Sanya Malhotra) is dealing with the shock. Or not.
Sandhya is not so devastated when we expect a new wife, just trying to live a blissful life about her. She craves a Pepsi, a packet of chips, a spicy ‘Gol-Gappe’ as she scrolls through her social media accounts, collecting the number of ‘likes’. Why does she look so different? Neither her friend Nazia (Shruti Sharma), nor her parents can understand this strange behavior of her, and soon the presence of a young widow who cannot disperse into the house, or mourn. It is only when she sees a colliding face with a smart, well-maintained Ananya (Sayani Gupta) among her late husband’s aides, that Sandhya gets uneasy about her past life . How well did she know him? Did she know him?
‘Paglit’ strongly reminds you of Seema Pahwa’s ‘Ram Prasad Ki Tahrvi’, the kind of dress which has been familiar to everyone till now. Gossipi bhabhi and aunt (‘aunt’, ‘tais’, ‘sister-in-law’) in the kitchen, men in the ‘aangan’ (courtyard) deciding on outside things, all from family, for example, ‘bone immersion’ Will go for the (ash ceremony)? The eldest, played by the amazing Yadav, is a permanently immovable relative, the last word on matters that rule the outside world.
The politics of family and grief is as old as the world, and the subject is never outdated, unless the treatment is original. The ‘paglit’ works best, as do these things, when its strokes are subtly sharp. When a ‘Nazia’ wanders into the house, a distinct freeze occurs, and at once, tells us some deep revelations about an older generation in a Hindu generation, which would display an unheard-of, to begin with. For, the stranger who is also a young woman, but for all his illnesses is a ‘Dr. Will go to ‘Ali. A lovely touch, reminiscent of so many UP cities. Apart from this, Sona is also about the ‘family leaving WhatsApp groups’ by Rajesh Taillang, who always leave their mark even in the worst roles. Jamil Khan, who is every lover of ‘Goolak’, is well sketched as the man who would cite Shakespeare more for his wife’s patented, relentless happiness. But there are not enough of these. The film keeps pushing towards the performance, telling us what we can see.
It is only the young man’s parents who do not need conversational crutches to show that they are in pain: Ashutosh Rana, a middle-aged thong bulging through a sweater, and Sheeba Chadha, eyes well Struggling for control from, are excellent. Interpretive lines are very generously handed over to everyone else, including Sandhya. It flatters the actors, and the film: we need more films that champion women, and here is one that speaks not only to a young woman who is ‘not quite mourning’, and to a widow. Which needs to be ‘taken care of’. Such an important subject. There is no rulebook for grief, we all grieve in our own way, and no one has the right to judge us. The intentions are perfect; If only the film was not very heavy handed.
Also, it is surprising that the name of the city is never mentioned, but the neighboring ‘Kanpur’ keeps on coming. Apparently, it is a UP city, with the famous ‘Meet Ki Dukans’ as well as ‘Chole Bhatouri’ chaat-shops. Why this austerity? Did we go back to a time when we could not name? After years of la-la-landism, Bollywood came into it; It is sad to see that we wish this evening, and all other treaties, the best for the life we have made for ourselves.