Tag Archives: Sheeba Chaddha

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.


 

Mirzapur: a Roller Coaster Ride

The first thirty minutes of Mirzapur dish out thrilling flavor samples for a first taste with a seasoned chef. The delicious ingredients aka the key cast are introduced with careful precision in the first episode by writers Karan Anshuman, Puneet Krishna and Vineet Krishnan. We meet each character, significant or minor, except Golu (Shweta Tripathi). Golu comes later, but she stays with us. Flawless and fearless, she is much needed soft, strong female energy in the next eight episodes not only for her clear conscience, providing relief from the macho, ruthless reality of the show, but also for her desire and free expression.

Some character journeys are predictable but most of them deviate, surprise, and conquer with finesse. Casting is perfect in this slow-cooked, gripping crime feast set in a fictitious-real world which runs into a total of 421 minutes.

Set in the Purvanchal region of Uttar Pradesh, the only law of this land is guns, drugs, rivalry, crime and power. Backed by taut screenplay and brilliant performances, the bar is set to the sky from the start and delivers right up to the racy, breathtaking finale. Mostly shot in Mirzapur, it also scores high on authentic locations. 

The opening scene introduces the main antagonist Munna (Divyendu Sharma), man-child brat of local don Akhandanand Tripathi aka Kaleen Bhaiyya (Pankaj Tripathi), setting the tone. Staring into the camera, Munna barks ‘Kaleen Bhaiyya – King of Mirzapur’ after a snort of cocaine. His next sentence is “To hum kaun hue… Prince”. (“And who am I… Prince”.) Next, second antagonist Kaleen Bhaiyya is introduced in a chilling scene where he watches stone-faced as a faulty gun, manufactured by his factory, explodes in his customer’s hand. 

Protagonists Guddu (Ali Fazal) and Bablu (Vikrant Massey) are introduced in a classroom, giving a sense of their life, dreams and moral fiber before life takes a U-turn. They are plonked with the dilemma of choosing a path with no return. Their decision plays a big role in setting the direction for their own lives, as well as events that follow.

An upright lawyer Ramakant (Rajesh Tailang) picks a prickly legal case, setting forth a chain of events. His commitment to justice for a murdered groom stands tall despite obstacles. His wife Vasudha (Sheeba Chaddha) is not happy with his truthful choices.

While the men are out playing with guns, the women get naughty. Golu is as comfortable masturbating in a library, with books for company, as she is trying to score votes on college elections. Her older sister Sweety (Shriya Pilgaonkar) has her eyes set on Guddu and his muscles. Then there is Beena Tripathi (Rasika Dugal), Akhandanand’s wife, who is consumed by her sexual desire as her husband is unable to satisfy her. Vasudha is dazzled by power and riches. Dimpy (Harshita Gaur) is spunky but cast as the proverbial sister, which is disappointing.


There are choices and then there is that one choice which comes with consequences. Every moment is an ominous one for Guddu and Bablu, keeping you on the brink. I usually avoid movies with pointless violence. Although come to think of it, isn’t every violent act pointless? What Mirzapur does extremely well is break violence into slices, amalgamating it into everyday life so mundane and real it is terrifying.

The story is pretty stock standard but the fresh perspective of its narrative is what gives Mirzapur its edge and quality stamp. Some scenes are designed to make audiences squirm, while others are paisa wasool on their entertainment value.

The writers are aided by a cast that live and breathe their characters perfectly. Divyendu conquers the messy, complex, layered Munna with finesse: his shifty body language, reckless behaviour, crazy streaks, and dark emotions blend into a powerful turn almost reminiscent of good old Gabbar. Ali charms as the soft and unpredictable Guddu – he wears his innocence like a burden even as his character peels it off bit by bit, with the shifting goal post. Vikrant is excellent as the sensitive, practical Bablu caught in a vortex of descent. Pankaj plays the measured evil don with panache. Veteran actor Kulbhushan stays in the background, occupying his wheelchair with the confidence of an assured performer as well as patriarch. Amit Sial and Shahnawaz Pradhan are effective as cops on opposite ends of the spectrum of duty. Rajesh is effective as the keeper of justice, Ramakant.

Quite easily, Rasika and Sheeba shine as Beena and Vasudha. Rasika is laidback and spunky, voicing her sexual needs and opinion freely, her superbly balanced act lending grace to Beena.  Vasudha is pushing boundaries of a different variety as she fulfils her material desires and tastes power for the first time. Sheeba plays her skilfully with candid innocence, as a woman  who does not think beyond the corners of her family’s existence. Shweta packs a punch as Golu, in her delicate frame, every time she appears.

Mirzapur is definitely worth taking the roller coaster ride.  Full of steep twists, it also has a thrilling climax that keeps you on edge until the last second, leaving unanswered questions for season two. Bring it on…

4 out of 5

Mirzapur. (2018- )Writers: Karan Anshuman, Puneet Krishna and Vineet Krishnan. Director: Karan Anshuman, Gurmmeet Singh, Nisha Chandra and Mihir Desai. Players: Rasika Dugal, Pankaj Tripathi,  Shriya Pilgaonkar, Ali Fazal, Shweta Tripathi, Vikrant Massey, Amit Sial, Divyendu Sharma, Shahnawaz Pradhan, Rajesh Tailang, Sheeba Chaddha, Harshita Gaur and Kulbhushan Kharbanda. Prime Video Network Release: Excel Entertainment

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

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