Rishi Kapoor-Taapsee Pannu Starrer Mulk And Akshay Kumar’s Gold: Two Interesting 2018 Films To Keep You Entertained During The Week-PART 68

Our 68th edition of Lockdown blues chasers is out! Late Rishi Kapoor-Taapsee Pannu starrer Mulk and Akshay Kumar’s Gold; check out two interesting 2018 films to keep you entertained at home, during the week

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Rishi Kapoor-Taapsee Pannu Starrer Mulk And Akshay Kumar’s Gold: Two Interesting 2018 Films To Keep You Entertained During The Week-PART 68
Mulk (2018):  It is  very  hard to  believe  that filmmaker Anubhav Sinha whose earlier credits include fluff stuff like Tum Bin and Ra.One, has actually created this modern political  masterpiece which attempts very successfully to humanize  a community that has been demonized by some negative elements. And yet Mulk doesn’t take sides, doesn’t make the Indian Muslim community a portrait of  injured innocence. What  it does do—and full-marks to Anubhav Sinha for writing a script that doesn’t bend backwards to humanize  the  community under siege—is to lay bare the layers of deception that mars a truly fruitful dialogue between sane rational elements in both the Hindu and Muslim community.

When the son(Prateik Babbar) from a Muslim family in the dense bylanes of Varanasi decides  to became a so-called jihadi, the ramifications on his family are deep and wounding. It is in portraying the  family’s  anguish that Anubhav emerges with cinema that’s masterly and  timely. There comes a time in the taut narrative when the patriarch of the family is asked to choose between home and safety. Rishi Kapoor making that resolute choice reminded me of Balraj Sahni in Garam Hawa. Kapoor has shaped  up into that rare actor who can do  anything effortlessly. His portrayal  of Murad Ali Mohammad  is  clenched and  compelling. He  brings to the character an empathy that never serenades self pity. But  my favourite performances  in  the film are by Manoj Pahwa as Rishi Kapoor’s  hounded brother and Rajat Kapoor as a Muslim anti-terror police officer who has turned against his  own community to cleanse  its reputation. Pahwa as the  terror-accused  father of a jihadi, makes your heart melt with compassion. In the best-written sequence of the  film he tells  his brother why he  always tried to be a good sibling, and never failed to fall short. Also brilliant is the ever-capable Kumud Mishra as the judge presiding over a case that in many ways, changes the way we look at terror-accused families, not to mention court proceedings in our films. Ashutosh Rana and Tapsee Pannu are absolutely brilliant as the  prosecutor and defence lawyer. And when Tapase takes over the climactic courtroom finale  questioning why our society has polarized  into “them” and “us” , she proves herself one of   the strongest contemporary  female  actors today.

Some moments in this thought-process reforming drama  made me break into goosebumps. When the  terrorist-son(Prateik Babbar)’s body  is brought home , we hear  sounds of mothered anguish and  panic,as  the camera moves through the family home prowling in pursuit of answers  to questions that  lie too deep for tears. I am not surprised that Evan  Mulligan’s camera has captured the splintered cultural conundrum  of Varanasi like  never before. Mulk is a work that won’t settle for the status quo. It forces us to think and reconsider  our value system at  a time when  cows  are valued more than human lives. Anubhav  Sinha prefers to say “boo” instead  of  “moo”.

Gold (2018):  There is something to be said about motivational sports  films. They make you stand and  cheer even when you know  the predictable  path invariably taken by  the genre. Gold starts off rather roughly, unsure  of who the hero of this game-plan is. It is certainly not the boozing Bengali Tapan Das, played in broad strokes bordering on Bong caricature, by Akshay Kumar. So is it Imitiaz Shah, chosen as the first  captain of  the Indian cricket team? Imtiaz, played with a very peculiar accent by Vineet Kumar Singh, soon crosses  the  border to Pakistan  but is there to cheer  for  the Indian hockey team  in the grand finale  in England. No, Imtiaz isn’t the hero. So it is the royal arrogant  hockey champ Raghubir Pratap Singh, a man of strange aristocratic contradictions  who  donates all his clothes to a streetside pauper but is excruciatingly self-absorbed on the hockey field. Then there is the hot-headed Punjabi player Himmat Singh, played with choleric credibility by Sunny Kaushal. Himmat’s temper issue keeps him off the game until the climax when he  bursts on the field like a smothered meteor taking India to  its  predictable yet exhilarating  victory.

Is Himmat the hero then? As I searched  for  a formal hero to this sprawling uneven yet fascinating and eventually gripping  saga of India’s first gold medal at the  Olympics after  independence, I realized that  the  beauty of this sports drama is  that  it wisely allows every character space to grow . This is indeed  a rare occurrence in a film helmed by an A-list  star. Even the villain, Mehta in the sports committee, played brilliantly by Atul Kale, grows oh-so-slightly as  the  narrative develops. In the end we see Mehta umbrella over Tapan Das’s head as the skies open up in England to bless the Indian team. Akshay gamely allows the plot to acquire  a pulsating  preponderance. This  is in keeping with the film’s theme: country  before self or state.  Writer Rajesh Devraj and director Reema Kagti  begin on a shaky ground. The opening match in pre-Independence India in Berlin presided by a Hitler lookalike who looks like a very poor country-cousin of the  original, is a near-disaster…for the  hockey players and for us.

But hang on. Don’t be in a hurry to write off the losing team. Gold shows us the glimmer that underscores every defeat. Much of  the plot is predictable. But the fault therein lies with history. The film could also be faulted for its uneven pace. At least two song breaks with Akshay Kumar doing a tipsy trapeze at social gatherings are more embarrassing for us than for his on-screen wife, played as a squeaky Bengali by Mouni Roy. Mouni is only watching her husband Tapan Das make  a fool of himself in public. We are witness to a much greater calamity as  Akshay Kumar slips into the slush of the slosh and gives his weakest performance in recent years. The endearing goofy mannerisms are now becoming annoying. Or as Tapan Das would say, “Okshoi  Babu kooch godbod chol roha hoi.” But here is the heartening news. Gold succeeds in turning its weaknesses into its strengths. The flaws in the actors’ performances frequently contribute to the film’s theme of triumph-against-all-odds. We just can’t help cheering for the underdogs, can we? Especially, when they are out there to bring glory to the country. By the time the final match in London(shot with brilliant lucidity at a hurried yet even rhythm by cinematographer Álvaro Gutiérrez) happens,  we are reflexively  up on our collective feet  singing  the national anthem along with our hockey heroes. Damn, did we  just get emotionally manipulated? Bring it on.


Image source: IMDb, Youtube/ExcelMovies/ZeeMusicCompany