Duration: 01 Hr 55 Mins
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Director: Umesh Bist
Writer: Umesh Bist
Producers: Ekta Kapoor, Shobha Kapoor, Guneet Monga, Achin Jain, Rishabh Dixit, Guneet Dogra, Arun Singh Dikky
Music: Arijit Singh
Cinematography: Rafey Mehmood
Editing: Prerna Saigal
Art Direction: Prashant Ray, Shraddha Vasugavade
Production Company: Balaji Motion Pictures, Sikhya Entertainment
Release Date: 26 March 2021 (India)
Released On: Netflix
Star Cast: Sanya Malhotra, Sayani Gupta, Ashutosh Rana, Aasif Khan, Shruti Sharma, Rajesh Tailang, Nakul Roshan Sahdev, Meghna Malik, Sheeba Chaddha, Sharib Hashmi, Jameel Khan, Sachin Chaudhary, Ashlesha Thakur, Niloy Rashid Jaki, Natasha Rastogi, Bhupesh Pandya, Chetan Sharma, Nakul Sahdev, Ananya Khare, Raghubir Yadav
Plot: ‘Pagglait’ explores the emotions and aspirations of Sandhya Giri (Sanya Malhotra), a young housewife, who is widowed within 5 months of her marriage. Her in-law’s ancestral home is filled with relatives, all grieving the death, but Sandhya is unable to shed any tears, behaving as if nothing has happened. A relative gingerly attribute it to ‘PTSD’ (post-traumatic stress disorder).
To make things worse, Sandhya finds a photo of a pretty girl (Sayani Gupta) in her deceased husband’s closet, (a corporate executive Astik Giri who is never shown throughout the film, not even in a photograph), making her wonder if he had been cheating on her. She then takes it upon herself to find out more about the girl and the two start to meet. All of this is happening while an elaborate 13-day death ceremony is being observed for the husband.
It is when an insurance agent informs the family that Sandhya is the sole beneficiary of Rs 50 lakh, things take a dramatic turn, and that forms the rest of the story.
Review: Bollywood doesn’t like death. It prefers happy unions. That is why many Bollywood films either open or close with a wide smile - high-spirited, chaotic wedding scenes and baraatis dancing to dhol-baja.
This film too refuses to mourn, therefore with a quirky spin, the writer-director Umesh Bist chooses to unfold his story as a comic drama. The film starts with Sandhya being shown alone in her room, amidst a house full of grieving relatives. And as the camera pans on her for the first time, she is seen sifting through social media condolence posts coming in for her dead husband, Astik. She lets out a yawn over the ‘copy-paste’ R.I.P shayari and moments later, asked if she wants some tea, unemotionally says she would prefer a cola.
Sandhya and Astik were never really a close couple in the few months they shared together, as Sandhya discovers much later that Astik was yet to fully get over his former girlfriend Aakanksha (Sayani Gupta).
There is a common joke in India – about how women realize what they want to do only after they get married. But it is probably not funny, because a lot of them don’t really get to do what they want. Sure, they realize what they want, but that doesn’t mean they get to do it.
‘Pagglait’, literally means a madwoman in Hindi. It is ironically a very sane film about a young woman, who is trying to find her voice and place in the world. A woman who at first had resigned to the whims of her family, but now sees potential in doing more and doesn’t want to be dependent on anybody.
Moreover, the film captures the internal politics of Indian families, how from a pitiable widow who nobody really wants to take responsibility for, Sandhya becomes a cash-cow. A lot of viewers would be able to relate to the small family feuds and funeral rituals that are shown in the film. The film also celebrates female friendships, Sandhya’s best-friend Nazia (Shruti Sharma) is always by her side, standing by her through her mood-swings and whims.
Sanya Malhotra plays the small-town widow Sandhya with incredible authenticity. She would leave you curious because she hardly talks. When she does, you are baffled and want to know what is going on in her mind. However, answers are provided only when we reach the end. She plays the lead role effortlessly and is charming, almost reminiscent of Kangana Ranaut’s Rani from Queen – the film that won all our hearts in 2014. It is perhaps unfair to compare Sanya to anybody because she holds her own in the film. Also, the actor has already made us fall in love with her acting in Ludo and keeps surprising us with her film choices.
Ashutosh Rana is brilliantly subtle with his voice modulations. The phenomenally capable Sheeba Chaddha sails through a span of emotions. Sayani Gupta who makes a small cameo as the 'other woman' is a treat to watch even in her little scenes. Supporting cast Raghubir Yadav, Shruti Sharma, Natasha Rastogi, Meghna Malik, Aasif Khan, and Chetan Sharma are great too.
It is evident that a mourning household in a small-town milieu will see the extended family converge, which in turn would mean an excess of characters. The problem is not all characters are properly fleshed out. As a result, actors of the caliber of Rajesh Tailang, Ananya Khare, and Jameel Khan remain underutilized. However, these actors manage to leave an impact, despite the limited footage they get. In fact, the film is enriched by fine performances from the entire cast.
The comedy in the film is subtle and makes you chuckle even when the characters are mourning Astik’s death till the end. Also, the film makes its comment about the repression of women without being too loud about it, especially in the climax. In fact, the end could seem predictable when it comes, but it works for this story.
Music in the film for most parts is great and has been done by Arijit Singh. He has made an incredible debut as a music composer. His songs hit the right feels and are used appropriately for the situations.
Overall, ‘Pagglait’ is not a conventional grieving tale of a widow. It is partly realistic, partly dramatic, and partly comedic. Though the ending has that typical Bollywood twist, it would leave a smile on your face. The film indeed should be on your watchlist!