Tag Archives: Ashutosh Rana

Pagglait Approaches the Insular Hindu Family With Humor and Heart

Pagglait is a Hindi dramedy film that released this past March on Netflix. The narrative follows the emotional reaction and circumstance of a young widow, Sandhya (Sanya Malhotra), after the death of her husband. The film is set in a small town near Delhi and chronicles the aftermath of the death of a breadwinner in a middle-class joint family.

This film, written and directed by Umesh Bist, is a winner! The producers Shobha Kapoor, Ekta Kapoor, Guneet Monga under the banners Balaji Motion Pictures and Sikhya Entertainment deserve praise.

The film plunges us into the middle of a drama. Astik has passed away. Sandhya is alone in her room, amidst a house full of grieving relatives, sifting through “routine” condolence posts on social media about her dead husband, Astik. Sandhya is very natural in her confusion and state of shock.

When asked, “If she wants some tea?” She says she would prefer a cola

Ghanashyam, a relative, suggests she has PTSD and Sandhya’s mother tries to ward off evil spirits by burning chilies. Sandhya’s attitude leaves the others puzzled but the viewer gains more insight into Sandhya’s character after her friend Nazia (Shruti Sharma) arrives. This vegetarian “chips” craving, Muslim school friend helps Sandhya process her grief. Sandhya admits that she is not feeling sad and sneaks away with Nazia for spicy street food while Astik’s brother is performing rituals for Astik on the river bank.

Ashutosh Rana looks sufficiently tired and hapless as a grieving father of a young son. Raghubir Yadav as the interfering orthodox uncle who orchestrates the funeral arrangements and thirteen-day right of passage of the deceased soul is natural. Another easy feather in Sheeba Chaddha’s professional cap as a traditional middle-aged mother who has no time to grieve. She just carries on cooking bland food for visiting relatives, massaging her mother-in-law’s ankles, giving her enema, offering support to her husband, and seeking guidance from her “guru”.

Sandhya admits that in the few months of marriage like any other arranged married couple, she was not very close to her husband. The loss of her pet cat affected her more than her husband. It takes time to develop feelings for someone…

The other family members are distressed but I think they are more concerned about the repercussions of the loss in their lives rather than genuine grief for the departed soul. Meanwhile, Sandhya discovers a photograph of Astik’s crush in his book. Sandhya is angry at her dead husband and is curious about Aakanksha, played flawlessly by the lovely and well-groomed, Sayani Gupta.  Aakanksha, who worked with Astik, came to offer her condolences with others from Astik’s office. Sandhya confides in Aakanksha and tries to gain more information about Astik from Aakanksha. She meets her a few times and tries to dress, act, and live vicariously through Aakanksha. Sandhya finds it hard to believe that Aakanksha and Astik were not involved after marriage and broods over it. 

The plot presents a twist when the family finds out who is the sole beneficiary of Astik’s life insurance. Questions arise. Will Sandhya remain in the joint family home or return to her parents’ home? Will she accept another proposal of an arranged loveless marriage? She has been craving soda and “gol gappas”, is she expecting? Can she find a job with her Master’s in English literature?

There are so many questions for Sandhya who is caught unawares at a crossroad.

But if you look closely, this ludicrous state is not Sandhya’s alone! This is the state of so many female denizens of a repressive society in which all decisions are made for them. From birth. Whether they have a right to be born to upbringing, education, toys, books, clothes, career choice, marriage, emotional and financial stability. Their ability to choose food, love, happiness is nullified by others. All decisions are made for them.

I highly recommend this film to everyone who supports gender equality. To quote the beautiful Sanya Malhotra, “Pagglait is a person who listens to their heart!”

A round of applause to Bist for hitting a home run with his flashlight on an insular Hindu family, the predictable characters with their hypocrisy (coming late to the funeral and drinking while making others abstain), warmth (treating the old dadi with respect and cuddling up in her comforter), jibes (at the in-laws), stress (of one bathroom), prolonged rituals (despite poor financials), every attempt to draw a line between a high caste Hindu and a Muslim, and the rather odd raunchy doorbell!

Death opens doors for self-realization in unexpected places.


Monita Soni, MD has one foot in Huntsville, Alabama, the other in her birth home India, and a heart steeped in humanity. Monita has published many poems, essays, and two books, My Light Reflections and Flow Through My Heart. You can hear her commentaries on Sundial Writers Corner WLRH 89.3FM.


 

Dhadak: Ishaan and Jhanvi shine, but the beat is missing

Dhadak lacks the unbridled consonance and passion of Marathi movie Sairat, on which it is based, but the lead pair and a compelling second half make it worth a visit. Janhvi Kapoor’s star presence is unmistakable as Parthavi Singh. She is talented, dewy, and has inherited Sridevi’s grace and easy charm. Ishaan Khatter’s Madhukar Bagla is au naturel, and gets ample space to show off his acting chops. It will be interesting to watch where the two actors go from here.

Writer-director Shashank Khaitan’s interpretation of Sairat is similar to the original in most parts, with changes to suit its new popular context. This version starts with a food-eating competition where Parthavi and Madhu fall in love at first glance. The first half is set in Udaipur and the second half in Kolkata, their living conditions are slightly better and urbanised post interval. That compromises the original’s seamless social message as well as its rural character and twinkle, and so Dhadak stays in the above-average zone. It is also jarring pre-interval and rushes through the couple’s journey towards the end. Shashank does retain Archie’s spirit in Parthavi. Of course, she is more decorous and less wild, but still spunkier and different than the average Hindi heroine, which is refreshing.

Moving on, love strikes when Parthavi and Madhu meet, both different in caste and class. Parthavi is daring, spontaneous, and assertive. Madhu is shy, smitten, and malleable. Parthavi will do what it takes to love and fight for it, unlike Madhu, who also loves but prefers to toe the line. Pehli Baar captures the first flush of his sentiments for the most part – especially with the final jump into the lake and Parthavi’s visit to the doctor. I missed Parthavi’s version – which was an important element in Sairat as it showed both sides in the culmination stage. Madhu’s father (Govind Pandey) cautions his son while his mother (Aishwarya Narkar) remains oblivious to the development. He tries to resist for a bit but gives in after Parthavi’s wicked prods. Brother Roop (Aditya Kumar) is on to them and snitches to father Ratan Singh (Ashutosh Rana). The plot is marred by screen time devoted to Ratan’s political confrontations. Gokul (Ankit Bisht, sincere) and Purshottam (Shridhar Watsar, underused) hang at the sidelines.

The movie picks up after the pair escape to Mumbai, and move to Calcutta where they rent a small room from Sachin Bhowmick (Kharaj Mukherjee) and wife (Subhavi) although Sairat‘s Suman Akka (Chhaya Kadam) was more effective. Her compassion in the slum setting had made the couple’s struggle for survival appear more profound and real. Madhu and Parthavi, in comparision, find jobs and settle fairly easily in sweet Bengal land.

Shashank doesn’t cover the wide expanse of caste and honor divides as well as economic marginalisation that Nagraj Manjule did, which is a disappointment. Sairat was richer for what it conveyed in as much screen time by respecting all its characters. Archie and Parshya’s friends, parents, and Suman Akka were treated with warmth and care despite their length, surroundings or failings. The handicapped character is replaced by a little person, with his treatment bordering on caricaturist, which is a shame.

The result is that no one makes a mark apart from Kharaj Mukherjee, Subhavi and Ankit Bisht. Ashutosh Rana is good but miscast. Vishnu Rao’s cinematography is effective, especially with making Janhvi look ethereal. Editor Monisha R. Baldawa does what she can with the material she is given.

Ajay-Atul return to rejig their tracks, with Amitabh Bhattacharya’s lyrics, and do fine repeating tunes in the delicate Dhadak Title Track and sweeping Pehli Baar. They replace Aatach Baya Ka Baavarla with the lovely Vaara Re. Sad to report that Zingaat suffers on all fronts: the lyrics and picturisation are plain awkward. It needed a fresh tune and setting.

Both Janhvi and Ishaan seem more comfortable in the city, which shows in the ease of their performance. I loved the Howrah Bridge scene where they make up after their final fight.

Ishaan has some fine moments and just needs to get comfortable with the Hindi film hero mold if he wants to continue that journey. The actor holds his own with little glances here and there, with sincerity and an open body language.

Janhvi is hesitant in comparision but still makes Parthavi shine. If only her dialogue delivery was more consistent, she would have been the scene stealer. I loved her simple look in Kolkata as compared to the ornate one in Udaipur. In terms of acting, she is fresh and comes with her own identity. Although in some scenes, I could see and hear Sridevi in the way she turned her face or said a line. She will take time developing her skill; her mother had practice since childhood.

If you are a die-hard Sairat fan, please venture with adequate care and no expectations. If you haven’t watched the original, it is an above average watch. Sridevi fans, do watch it for Janhvi. Even if you don’t like her acting as much, you will see glimpses of what we all lost in February.

3 out of 5

 

Dhadak. Writer-Director: Shashank Khaitan. Players: Ishaan Khatter, Janhvi Kapoor, Kharaj Mukherjee, Ashutosh Rana. Music: Ajay-Atul. Lyrics: Amitabh Bhattacharya. Theatrical release: Zee Studios, Dharma Productions.

 

Hamida Parkar is a freelance journalist and founder-editor of cinemaspotter.com. She writes on cinema, culture, women, and social equity.

This article was edited by Culture and Media Editor Geetika Pathania Jain.