Date: 03. 08.2018
Writer/ Director: Anubhav Sinha
Cast: Rishi Kapoor, Taapsee Pannu, Manoj Pahwa
Ratings: 3.5 Stars
Every day, Murad Ali Mohammed/ Rishi Kapoor walks back from the mosque, a cloth bag in hand, stopping for chai and conversation with his Hindu neighbors before coming home.
The family celebrates his 65th birthday with the entire neighborhood and next day, Shahid/ Prateik Babbar, Murad’s nephew leaves on a trip with his friends. His father Bilal/ Manoj Pahwa rides him to his rendezvous surprised that they are meeting on a desolate street.
There is news of a bomb blast massacre and Shahid is the prime suspect. His actions have an adverse effect on the family as friends turn foes and Murad is left to prove that his family is not anti-national.
The first half is slow paced as there are too many characters to be introduced but the second half focused on the courtroom drama is hard-hitting and often stomach churning.
In my opinion, there are 4 reasons for watching Mulk:
One, the plot: shot in the by-lanes of small-town India the opening shots of the film reveal the diverse cultures of Varanasi where ‘Ram naam satya hai’ co-exists with the call of azaan. The Indian Muslim has never felt so isolated and Anubhav Sinha dares to travel the dark road of distrust and hatred where terrorism is the new enemy.
Two, the debate: terrorism has no religion and the story lays bare the prejudices that precede perception of communal disharmony, for example, every Muslim who prays five times a day and wears a beard is not a terrorist and it is time to rethink and reconsider our age-old beliefs and change with times.
Three, the narrative: the writing is the soul of the film and far from subtle. It is hard to believe that the film is made by the director of Tum Bin and Ra.One. There are some stomach-churning moments in the film for instance when Prateik Babbar’s body is brought home and the camera rotates in fast motion building as much terror in the audience as among the family members. Another moment is when Manoj Pahwa tormented in custody is made to repeat ‘I am the father of a terrorist’.
Four, the performances: every character contributes to the narrative, you can read the thought process of anti-terror police officer Rajat Kapoor as he eavesdrops conversation between the accused and his lawyer. Ashutosh Rana as the prosecutor and Taapsee Pannu as the defense are sparkling and when Taapsee concludes her argument questioning society prejudices you cannot stop applauding.
Rishi Kapoor essays Murad Mohammed without self-pity. The actor has over the decades emerged into refined clay that can be molded into any role. Special mention must be made of Manoj Pahwa who breaks your heart and presiding judge Kumud Mishra, who is a scene stealer.
Five, the message: it is hard to believe that finally a film has been made on the subject that humanizes a community without taking sides. It peels layers of deception, questions media, police, and politician and for the first time initiates a moderate, rational dialogue addressing both the communities.
Mulk is a right film at the right time. In a scene where the police grant security to Murad Mohammed he says “Why do I need to be protected in my own home”. His anguish pierces your heart; Balraj Sahani had expressed similar angst many years ago in Garam Hawa. Not much has changed since 44 years, well writer-director Anubhav Sinha is trying and the least we can do is to watch this film.
I rate strong, thought provoking Mulk with 3.5 stars.
Bhawana Somaaya/ @bhawanasomaaya