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Pagglait is a heart-warming, insightful drama which finally leaves you with a smile and a tear

Pagglait is a heart-warming, insightful drama which finally leaves you with a smile and a tear

Stills from the movie

Film: Pagglait

Director: Umesh Bist

Cast: Sanya Malhotra, Ashutosh Rana, Sheeba Chaddha, Raghubir Yadav, Shruti Sharma, Rajesh Tailang, Sayani Gupta, Jameel Khan, Sharib Hashmi

Nonika Singh

Jab ladki log ko akal aati hai na, toh sab unhe pagglait hi kehte hain.” A girl coming into her own and finding her sense of self is not exactly a new story. Many a film has gone down that path. But the setting in which Sandhya (Sanya Malhotra) realises her true being sure is rather unusual.

She has only recently lost her husband, apparently the only earning member of the family. While the family, especially the parents, are in mourning, the young widow seems to be caught in an unemotional state. As she tells her friend, “Na rona aa raha hai aur bhookh bhi daba ke lag rahi hai.” Clearly asking for a soft drink and potato chips in an environment where the family is being forced to eat saatvik food sans spices and condiments is a blasphemy of sorts. Why is she behaving in a manner ‘un-becoming’ of a widow? Is it post-traumatic stress as one member of the family suggests or is it lack of love in their relationship?

As the story unfolds much, including her husband Aastik’s ex-girlfriend Aakansha (Sayani Gupta), comes to the fore. Amidst the rituals that follow a death in India, especially in UP, the director takes us through many motions and emotions. He draws an interesting parallel between tradition and modernity, between a spirit acquiring a body and a living person finding her true spirit. Intercutting scenes of the family performing rituals and the widow sneaking out and surreptitiously eating golgappas, the camera (Rafey Mahmood, the cinematographer, does a fine job) moves deftly and captures the flavours and smells of this town in UP. And the director-writer Bist engages you in a heart-warming, insightful drama which is as much about loss as gain. Simultaneously, he challenges many archaic/orthodox practices but without rubbing it in. Nothing is in your face. At the core of Pagglait, which is a tad quirky, a whole lot meaningful are some truly progressive values, not the least of which hover around a widow’s space, freedom and identity.

Indeed, certain twists like who will ultimately get the insurance money are on predictable lines. But little about the film is clichéd. Actors easily navigate through the multiple layers of the narrative. Sanya Malhotra as Sandhya is a natural. and is proving her acting ability with each new project. Ashutosh Rana and Sheeba Chaddha as grieving parents are incredibly believable and lend heart and soul to their characters and bring alive the compulsions of a middle class family. Raghubir Yadav as the family’s elder brother who defies the very set of rules he sets for others is like always consummate. Other actors, be it the Rajesh Tailang, Aasif Khan, Yamini Singh or Jameel Khan, fill in the landscape that is rich with attention to detail and has enough room for each to make a mark. Music by Arjit Singh may not be the highpoint but songs like Thode Kam Ajnabi are lilting.

Though set in the aftermath of a young tragic death, the film is not in the least bit morose. Sombre at times, may be a trifle slow too, but uplifting all the while, it finally leaves you with a smile and a tear. The dead Aastik whom we never meet, only see him through his clothes, shoes and conversations, looms large and it’s his absence that marks his presence.

Often it takes a tragedy to not only discover the person one has lost as Sandhya does, but our own selves too. Pagglait in that sense is a revelation and realisation, a small nugget that calls for compulsory viewing as it streams on Netflix.