I’ll be honest, it’s been a while since I’ve been so inspired by a film to write a blog about it immediately. But I just watched “Pagglait” and am sitting here smiling to myself thinking how elegantly crafted this simple story was. There is nuance and depth to all its characters, and I found myself laughing at just how comically relatable Indian families – in all their ridiculous “extraness” – can be. (I assure you, you’ll recognize some of your “door ke rishtedaar” at the very least!)
Pagglait just released on Netflix, written and directed by Umesh Bisht, and produced by Shobha Kapoor, Ekta Kapoor, Guneet Monga, and Achin Jain under the banners Balaji Motion Pictures and Sikhya Entertainment.
The premise: a demure young middle-class Sandhya (underplayed to absolute perfection by Sanya Malhotra) finds herself widowed after just five short months of marriage and surrounded by a heady mix of grief, disbelief, archaic traditions, and some semi well-intentioned but mostly greedy relatives. Watching her character simmer to a dignified boil was truly refreshing. No high drama, no theatrics, just a girl, in a patriarchal world trying to process her feelings. Where she ends up is surprising but believable and I feel like the learning curve for the entire family is significant, even though the blow is delivered more like a kind rap on the wrists, rather than a slap across the face. But as we all know by now, courtesy of Dr. Dang, “jo thapad sunai nahi data…” stings more.
As I watched I remember thinking how badly I was hoping they’d show a typical flashback so I could see the husband Astik and gauge what he was like. But I love that they didn’t so I could carry with me some of Sandhya’s ache and loss for someone I didn’t really know but somehow missed. Just like her.
Won’t give you any spoilers here but… Sayani Gupta is ever-charming as Aakanksha. I am always delighted to see her on film, she has a certain effervescence that is uniquely her own. Sheeba Chaddha and Ashutosh Rana play Astik’s grieving parents with heart-wrenching integrity. Aasif Khan as Parchun and Shruti Sharma as Nazia offer a nice side-story to the mix and give the filmmakers a chance to play with the concept of mild bigotry which we all know is pretty well ingrained in a majority of South Asian families. The motley crew of relatives played Raghubir Yadav (you’re going to love to hate him and roll your eyes at him repeatedly), Rajesh Tailang, Meghna Malik, Jameel Khan, Nakul Roshan Sahdev, Bhupesh Pandya, Sheeba Chaddha, Sachin Chaudhary, Ananya Khare, Mehak Thakur, Yamini Singh, Ashlesha Thakur and Saroj Singh offer you every possible shade of grey and greed. Natasha Rastogi (Sandhya’s Mother) does a brilliant job of playing a complex woman trying valiantly to protect her daughter, but possibly serve herself and I’m a BIG fan of the Daadi! The strong silent type with a boss vibe.
I feel like this cast was supremely well balanced and I love that the female characters were so wholesomely thought through. My heart also kind of went out to the one pure heart in the film – Alok, the deceased’s brother (played so sincerely by Chetan Sharma), sometime soon we should tell his story too, it’d be a good one.
I also really liked the soundtrack, Singer Arijit Singh’s first project as a composer, the music wasn’t overwhelming but it definitely made me feel some sh*t, so I think he nailed it.
All in all, this one’s a must-watch folks. The kind of full family viewing we need more of in this neck of the woods! And you know how every women’s day we say “every day should be women’s day”? Well congratulations, this movie just wished me a Happy Women’s Day today in the best possible way. Might have to watch again tomorrow to remind me that the special brand of female “pagglait” (aka madness) they often accuse us of suffering from is the stuff legends are made of.