Let’s begin it with a question. When do we call someone crazy? Yeah, you guessed it right. Mostly when someone is off the mark, not conforming to the norms. Writer-director Umesh Bist, inspired by a cremation, endeavoured to make a movie on that theme. While ‘Pagglait’, with its self-explanatory title, cheerfully lets out the broad scope of the movie, it also triggers anticipation of an engrossing plot replete with quirky people and side-splitting dialogues. And as the story unfolds, we get to notice that the film with its eccentric characters and custom evolves into a stinging satire on our society, where women continue to be the second class citizens with the men forcing their rituals and rules on them.
‘Pagglait’ opens with the establishing shots of morning and mores of a sleepy town of Uttar Pradesh. Then the camera hovers over a house named ‘Shanti Kunj’ (Peaceful place) where, contrary to its claim, chaos reigns. A death in the family has, in truth, laid bare its faultlines.
The hues and shades of characters take their own comfortable time to completely reveal themselves, but the central theme of ‘Pagglait’ is pretty soon clear that the young widow (Sanya Malhotra playing Sandhya) of the house is not adhering to the way of the world and is suspected of post-traumatic stress disorder. Because she is busy scanning, counting and mocking likes and comments on the Facebook post she has made announcing the demise of her husband, while the other members are observing the thirteen-day mourning as per the religious conventions.
Much to the disbelief of her mother Shruthi (Natasha Rastogi) and friend Naziya (Shruti Sharma), who have rushed to console her in the time of the unspeakable grief, Sandhya doesn’t hesitate to ask for Pepsi or venture out for golgappas.
It turns out that Sandhya is unsentimental about the loss of her husband Astik because in the five months of their marriage they could not get very close to each other. But the film takes an interesting turn when she gets to know about the love of her husband’s life and becomes restless to meet her, blaming her for the distance between them.
But when she finds that girl (Akanksha played by Sayani Gupta) and is assured of Astik’s fidelity to her, Sandhya craves to know all about him from his ex-girlfriend and starts missing him.
Finally, on the Terahveen, the last day of mourning, not one but two souls are liberated. While Astik’s soul leaves for the heavenly abode, Sandhya, a Master in English, sets out to create a niche for herself.
The film navigates through multiple twists and turns, one build-up fizzling out to generate another one, hustled only to expose the cracks in the family and the duality of characters rather than taking the story strongly forward.
But the only flaw in the film is offset by a line of powerful actors. Ashutosh Rana (Astik’s father) and Sheeba Chaddha (Astik’s mother) do not need punchlines to express the intense pains of their characters. Raghubir Yadav, Rajesh Tailang, Meghna Malik and Aasif Khan deliver another stunning performance.
Sanya Malhotra, undoubtedly, has improved as an actor, though at times she appeared detached from her character. Both Sayani Gupta and Shruti Sharma have done justice to their roles.
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. They do not reflect the views of India TV. The author can be reached on Twitter @iamomtiwari)