It’s not easy to laugh in the face of death. But what to do when the newly-widowed Sandhya(Sanya Malhotra, in a career-changing performance) asks for an aerated drink when she should be grieving copiously and ostentatiously?
Sandhya knows the ‘mourning’ shows the day. Sandhya has a problem. And a very disturbing one at that. She doesn’t feel a thing for her dead husband. Instead of grieving over his loss, as the teeming household of parents, uncles, aunties, cousins, nephew and nieces seem to be doing, Sandhya sneaks out of the house with her best friend Nazia (Shruti Sharma) pretending she needs a doctor, to have gol gappas.
Pagglait is a striking provocative often poignant and amusing meditation about what is expected from the bereaved and what the bereaved actually feel. We had a very likeable film on this theme Ram Prasad Ki Tehrvi a few months ago. Pagglait may outwardly look similar (after all, mourners cannot be any different in two different households, or can they?). But the core of the films, its heart and its spirit are fiercely individualistic.This is a film on its trip, wilful and wonderful and teeming with characters made memorable by some of our best actors.
When a young girl talks about her periods in front of the family, the ever-dependable Raghuvir Yadav (a pastmaster at playing grumpy old men) retorts, "Aur dikhayo inko Padman."
To show the middle finger to tradition and convention specially in a house filled with mourners is not easy. Pagglait gets right the mood of suspended regret and unrepentant defiance as Sandhya sets off on a journey, first emotional then physical, to know herself. This self-searching is done with such scrambled ambiguity that we can’t help feeling protective about Sandhya.Throughout her 13-day journey , Old Lucknow remains a distant ally. A sleeping accomplice, if you will. Rafey Mahmood’s camera doesn’t miss a single smirk or frown on those familial faces. At the centre of the bustling jostling melee of mindless mourners is the question of Sandhya’s aborted marriage.
Did Sandhya not ‘know’ her husband when he was alive because of her intellectual shallowness? Sandhya’s interaction with her dead husband Astik’s girlfriend Akansha (Sayani Gupta) suggests Sandhya never made an effort to get close to her husband. This “getting to know” process (blue being her dead husband’s favourite colour, Sandhya unaware of this vital fact, names blue as HER favourite at the end when she’s on her way to selfactualization) reminded me of Rituparno Ghosh’s Shob Charitro Kalponik.
At times the plot seem top-heavy. Too many life-changing events follow in a rapid progression during just the 13 days of mourning. Luckily writer-director Umesh Bist balances out the spiral of domestic revelations in a calm cogent flow. Even when the characters overlap in their desires and disaffection, they somehow seem to never lose their identity.
Some of the people who populate this drama of liberating disenchantment may be hard to place in the family hierarchy. But we all know how it is in a house of mourning. No one knows everybody. And most mourners are not there for any other reason but to gossip. As genuine mourners Ashutosh Rana and Sheeba Chadha, playing the dead man’s parents , and Chetan Sharma as his sibling, are absolutely bang-on. The rest of the cast isn’t far behind. Just a little lost in their moral grounding.
Image source: IMBD/YOUTUBE/NetflixIndia