Pagglait Movie Review - Astik Ki Tehrvi

In Pagglait, a terrific cast plunges us into a funeral. 

The entire cast of Pagglait is terrific. I loved each and every actor in this film. All of them owned the screen without overshadowing the other player. Movies with big ensemble names could learn a thing or two about teamwork from Pagglait. However, if I have to pick a favorite, I would choose Ashutosh Rana any day. Here is an actor who doesn't act but lives in the moment. He channels the "funeral mood" from real life. Notice the depth in his broken face or the way he pauses when delivering a line. Rana is simply superb in every way. 

Umesh Bist, the writer and director of Pagglait, assembles his characters for the funeral of Sandhya's (Sanya Malhotra) husband named Astik. You think The Great Indian Wedding is chaotic? Wait till you find yourself at a funeral for 13 days. We love spending lavishly on occasions, even if there are loans dangling like a sword on our heads. Shivendra (Ashutosh Rana), Astik's father, says, "Humara ladka guzar gaya hai. Hum discount nahi maang rahe hain." Bist exposes the pretence behind the Indian funeral without excessive underlining. We are made to act in a certain way even when its opposite goes on within our minds. Astik's brother Alok (Chetan Sharma) is forced to shave his head and urged to eat the food he doesn't want to.

The biggest burden is put on Sandhya. As she is the wife of the deceased, she is expected to mourn and break her bangles. But Sandhya is not able to conjure even a drop of tear. She is not affected by the loss of her husband in the way she felt for her cat, who got run over by a car. But funeral it is and cry you must. Her mother immediately diagnoses Sandhya's condition as being jinxed by an evil eye. This is an Indian family where logic takes a backseat, and superstition drives the vehicle. The words "progressive" and "open-minded" exists in their verbal dictionary but are never used practically. When Sandhya's Muslim friend named Nazia (Shruti Sharma) arrives at the setting, an air of discomfort surrounds the elders in the family, especially Roshan (Raghubir Yadav) is irked by her presence. Needless to say, her cups and plates are separated from the rest of the household. 

Bist shows an excellent observation of the situation under scrutiny. The bit where a ruckus is created over a receipt and when faces are ruffled because they are excluded from taking the ashes to the holy Ganges are well-realized. As the group arrives at the sacred place, they are swarmed with pandits endorsing themselves for carrying out the deed. Bist, intentionally or unintentionally, inserts a dog among them, blurring the line between the sounds of the shouting pandits and the barking of the animal. Alok's chores are cut with Sandhya's appeasements. Both of them are not in the mood to weep. But one is coerced into the ritual while another breaks free from it.

The seeds of liberation inside Sandhya are further watered by Akansha (Sayani Gupta). She is everything Sandhya desires to be - modern, has a job, lives alone on her own terms. Other than that, there is possibly a hint of a romantic attraction. Maybe the reason why Sandhya was not able to romantically attach herself to her husband is that she is into women? But Pagglait doesn't fully explore this angle. On the other hand, I am also happy it didn't go there because Pagglait has a lot on its plate, and this angle could have stuck out like a sore thumb. 

A movie like Pagglait is expected to end with a heavy-handed monologue. I could imagine Akshay Kumar rubbing his hands and waiting for the delivery joyously. Fortunately for us (and unfortunately for him), it bows down gently without being noisy. I didn't buy into Alok's transformation, but Sandhya's confidence and the film's optimism brighten the light at the end of the tunnel.

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from Movie Reviews https://moviesinmydna.blogspot.com/2021/04/pagglait-movie-review-astik-ki-tehrvi.html
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