Created by Balaji Telefilms and Sikhya Entertainment, Pagglait is the story of a widow who is unable to grieve the recent passing of her husband.
The setting begins with the characters informing the audience through their conversation that the son in the family, Astik Giri, has passed away.
The whole family is thrown into chaos to conduct the funeral rituals, which last for 13 days, as the quirks of each character slowly come to light.
The whole family feels Astik’s wife, Sandhya (Sanya Malhotra), would naturally be the most distraught. However, she confides in her friend Nazia (Shruti Sharma) that the reality is quite the opposite.
Sandhya has found herself unable to even shed a tear and she feels as normal as ever. What follows is a journey, through the 13 days, for Sandhya to find herself amidst all the commotion.
Malhotra is slowly blossoming into one of the best actresses in the industry. Sandhya makes you root for her throughout, even when she’s an emotional mess and acting out. She’s the focal point of this narrative, and she effortlessly handles the heavy lifting.
It’s a fascinating journey with the character as she navigates her orthodox family who feel obliged to take her decisions. It’s a gradual path to self discovery, but the pay off at the climax is absolutely worth it.
The entire cast is in scintillating form all throughout the film. Right from Astik’s parents Shivendra (Ashutosh Rana) and Usha (Sheeba Chadha) to his brother Alok (Chetan Sharma), every character complements what the film is trying to say.
It’s rare to see the entire cast of a film punching up like this, and it’s an absolute treat to watch. No matter who is on the screen, Pagglait wins.
Perhaps the biggest achievement of the film is the nuance and mildness with which it tackles uncomfortable issues, and director Umesh Bist deserves massive credit.
The family isn’t evil. They genuinely believe they know what’s best for her, and are looking out for themselves as well. They’re oblivious to how they’ve shackled Sandhya, and that’s the reality of many households.
It’s important for women to understand this as well and not submit. As she perfectly sums it up in one scene: “You have to take your own decisions, or someone will take them for you.”
How funeral rituals have been commercialised by some sections has also been excellently addressed through Alok, who questions arbitrary customs as he carries out the various rites.
In one scene, when someone tells him he’ll take him right to the middle of the river to immerse Astik’s ashes, he says: “We haven’t really come here for boating.” The film normalises asking questions, which many have forgotten today. It also stresses that it is perfectly normal to not blindly follow age-old ‘norms’.
The trappings of tradition is a major theme expertly touched upon. The family ironically thinks it’s “open-minded”, but the reality is far from it. All commentary is executed through wit and sarcasm, which inspires superior storytelling.
Despite everything Pagglait manages to say in its almost 2-hour runtimes, it’s far from a dull watch. Humour is wonderfully infused in various scenes to offset the sombre premise of demise in the family.
It teaches you that you’re not a bad person for smiling during grim times. Everybody reacts differently, doesn’t mean they’re not hurting or unaffected. Oh, and you can definitely drink Pepsi and eat chips.
Arijit Singh has composed the music for Pagglait, and the singer hits it out of the park. Every track is well-aligned with the scenes and nothing seems out of place.
Some scenes are taken to a completely different level by the music. It’s hard to not be completely captivated as Sandhya is left emotionally muddled at her discoveries about her late husband and Dil Udd Jaa Re plays in the back.
Some parts of the film are slow with the transition to the next phase, and you’re left to wonder where the plot is taking you.
Pagglait is one of the best Indian films in recent times. The stellar performances, imaginative storytelling and clever messaging create magic on screen.
It’s a unique film where the cycle of life is reversed. You start with death and find life at the end. You would definitely regret missing out on this one.
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