- Released on Netflix 26 March 2021
Umesh Bist’s Pagglait is set in the backdrop of a large Indian family but unlike Sooraj Barjatiya’s sugar overload Umesh focuses on the hypocrisies and the greed. There is no outright villain here, the circumstances make the characters do what they do. In brief Pagglait is a heartwarming winner which works on many accounts.
Sandhya played by Sanya Malhotra is a young widow who is unable to grieve the death of her husband Astik. A major reason for that is they never shared a close bond but things take a turn when she discovers a startling fact about him. It is revealed that Astik was in a relationship with a girl Akansha played by Sayani Gupta. They couldn’t marry as the girl’s parents didn’t approve of Astik. However the main conflict in the story comes when the family members are informed that Astik had left behind 50 lakh worth of insurance money for Sandhya alone and nothing for his parents who are hugely in debt. From here on an absurdist drama begins where the patriarchal figureheads are hell bent on keeping the money within the family. They devise various plans for that which includes trying to bribe the agent into changing the nominee name. Side by side you have Sandhya finding out more about Astik through the character of Sayani Gupta.
Pagglait touches upon many things starting from the hypocrisy of our culture. A good example of that is the character of Raghubir Yadav. He plays the role of an angry uncle who talks about Sandhya’s remarriage openly. He claims to be open minded but flinches every time her Muslim friend passes by.
In a very subtle manner Umesh shows how money is the only religion we follow. This is reflected in the schemes that the elders employ in order to keep the money within the family. Up until then there is no talk on remarriage but when they realize that Sandhya is the nominee of 50 lakh you have Rajesh Tailing’s character who wants to make Sandhya his daughter in law. The reason being he believes that the money will help his son in setting up a hotel.
The dynamics between Sanya’s and Sayani Gupta’s characters has also been explored well by Umesh Bist. Sandhya’s eagerness to know more about her husband and the bond that develops between these two comes out well.
Umesh Bist also deserves credit for not showing Sandhya as a tragic figure. There is nothing miserable or schmaltzy about the portrayal of Sandhya. Of course she is no Rani Laxmibai either. She is a regular woman leading a life of conformism who has an awakening in the midst of a tragedy.
Cinematographer Rafey Mehmood captures the Ganga ghat with all its beauty and complexity. Dialogues written by Umesh Bist are another major winner. They are both satirical and thought provoking. Arjit Singh’s music goes well with the mood of the film.
The film’s star cast lends even more weight to the film. Sanya Malhotra captures the journey off her character perfectly without missing a single beat. After last year’s Shakuntala Devi and Ludo this is another performance where the growth of the actress is visible. The surprise package of the film though is Ashutosh Rana. Known largely for his negative characters Ashutosh delivers a solid act as the morally conflicted father in – law. My favorite scene of Ashutosh is the scene with his wife where he expresses his anger on almost losing his morality. Sheeba Chadda is also good.
In totality Pagglait is well worth your time.
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