Tag Archives: Sanya Malhotra

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.


 

Exclusive Interview With Director of Photograph

An interview with Ritesh Batra, the writer and director of Photograph, where he kindly assures Geetika Pathania Jain three times that she is not being too fanciful, and discusses the characters and their motivations:

Geetika Pathania Jain: Thank you for this exclusive interview with India Currents. Excited about your upcoming film Photograph. I had the honor and the pleasure of reviewing The Lunchbox and I was struck by some of the authorial signatures that I’m starting to see in your films. Certainly Mumbai appears to be your muse (or maybe it’s Bombay) with its colonial architecture and its chawls and teeming poverty. Any comments on why Mumbai inspires you so much?

Ritesh Batra: I don’t spend a whole lot of time thinking about it myself. I do love the city. I grew up there. I was there till I was eighteen. I really loved how it used to be. And that kind of finds its way when I’m writing something. And especially with this movie, I wanted to get back to my own writing, to get back to directing my own writing. Yeah, so it also has a lot of nostalgia in it, just like The Lunchbox did, so I really come to it from a place of nostalgia.

You know when it used to be Bombay, when I was growing up, someone in the twenties now —  I’m in my late 30s — but someone in their twenties now would be able to make a movie about Mumbai now, but my movies are more about people who are going through the city with a certain degree of nostalgia, which sometimes blends in and sometimes stands out from what their journey is, but it had a big impact on who they are.

GPJ: I see a more positive view of the city in this film (compared to The Lunchbox). I’m not sure if you agree with me that even though we do have Tiwariji who has been crushed by the city, but can I recall Mr. Fernandez (Irrfan Khan of The Lunchbox) and how these individuals who have been crushed by the city but yet they seem to endure and find ways to carry on. A message of alienation in this film or am I reading too much into it?

Got ten minutes? Here is the complete interview with Ritesh Batra:

 

PHOTOGRAPH (2019). Director: Ritesh Batra. Screenplay: Ritesh Batra, Emeara Kamble. Players: Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Sanya Malhotra, Farrukh Jaffar, Jim Sarbh, Vijay Raaz. Hindi with English sub-titles. Amazon Studios.

Geetika Pathania Jain, Ph.D. is Culture and Media Editor at India Currents.

Female Anger Explodes in Pataakha

Boom. Female anger explodes on the Hindi cinema screen in full frontal glory in Pataakha (2018). Who other than Vishal Bhardwaj for the job? The writer-director tackles women’s energy head on, by exploring a tempestuous relationship between two sisters, Badki and Chutki, with black humor. The mad hatter concept suspends the viewer straight into disbelief, thankfully with no hint of an apology for the fights.

I was the only audience in an empty theatre. Years ago, it was Luck By Chance (2009), Zoya Akhtar’s fantastic debut, which she hasn’t been able to surpass since. No surprises there, that the box office has little to garner from angry female leads. Pretty much like Republican Senators, who ignored the anguish of Christine Blasey Ford and anger of female protesters to confirm Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination.

According to expert Taran Adarsh, Pataakha collected 7.64 crores in its first week. Sui Dhaaga (2018), which released the same Friday, crossed 62.5 crores. Hardly a surprise, that. Nothing gets the cash registers ringing better than a woman who radiates good old manipulation, docility, and subordination.

Walk in with a stash of popcorn and Coke then to experience the messy goodness of Genda ‘Chhutki’ Kumari (Sanya Malhotra) and Champa ‘Badki’ Kumari (Radhika Madan) who are fiery, gritty, and spunky from start to finish. The movie starts with a paisa wasool mud scuffle over a beedi, sparked by their neighbor Dipper Naradmuni (Sunil Grover) and doused by their single father Bechara Bapu (Vijay Raaz). The relationship is fragile and competitive as they battle over clothes, a sticky forced-marriage, a smartphone, and even television. Dipper, the meddlesome Naradmuni, regularly snitches and pits them against each other, with wicked glee.

Badki and Chutki are authentic, scruffy, and imperfect as much as they are wild, spontaneous, and unpredictable. They rule their surroundings with confidence and abandon. The fury of a woman, usually confined and restrained, finds a visual arena to manifest itself externally in color. Love, love, love. Without Ranjan Palit’s colorful camerawork, this would not have been possible.

A dynamic first half shows their childhood and young adult romance. They both find men of their choice in charming romances — Chutki meets Vishnu (Abhishek Duhan) in a field and Badki encounters Jagan (Namit Das) near the river. Meanwhile, a lecherous old man, Tharki Patel (Saanand Verma) tries to score one of them as his wife, in exchange for a loan to Bapu. The girls are in a dilemma; Dipper eggs them on, but also saves them.

Post interval and wedding, the pair is confined to the same house, after they unknowingly marry brothers. After a promise to their father, they also feel obliged to stop fighting and settle into the routine of domestic life. Until they don’t. Dipper sets them off again, this time they push their husbands into a family fight. The reason behind their combustible equation is revealed in the end.  

The story is fresh and straightforward, with crispy dialogue, laughs, twists and turns. Vishal picks Charan Singh Pathik’s short story Do Behnein, based on real-life antics of wives of his brothers, published by Sahitya Kala Academy. The siblings’ divide is even compared to that between feuding neighbors India and Pakistan. The songs Pataakha, Balma, Gali, and Naina Banjare adorn the narrative seamlessly. But why jar the flow with Hello Hello, the Malaika Arora item song?

The movie rests on the excellent performances. Saanand Verma plays creepy well. Namit Das and Abhishek Duhan make a mark. Sunil Grover is superbly layered with his grey shade character. Vijay Raaz scores perfect, balancing his daughters’ energetic fights with restrained ease.  Sanya Malhotra is back with a bang and Radhika Madan makes sterling big screen debut. The actors are flawless; they hold their own individually and are crackling together.

Pataakha is super fun and entertaining. It could have been more, and falls just short of achieving greatness. Yet the importance of the red carpet it rolls out to normalize anger in women is noteworthy. Pity the audience isn’t biting.

3.5 out of 5

Pataakha. Writer & Director: Vishal Bhardwaj. Players: Sanya Malhotra, Radhika Madan, Vijay Raaz, Namit Das, Abhishek Duhan. Music: Vishal Bhardwaj. Theatrical release: KYTA Productions, Vishal Bhardwaj Films.

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.