REVIEW: Mulk’s hard hitting subject is worth a mull and a must watch!

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REVIEW: Mulk’s hard hitting subject is worth a mull and a must watch!

Mulk is a hard-hitting movie about a Muslim family whose life suddenly lands in turmoil when a young man from the family gets embroiled in terrorist activities.

But the story is not just about the family and how they cope with the aftermath. Its a story about our delicate societal fabric and the challenges it faces in the current scenario, its a story about prejudices, its a story about faith or lack of it.

Just like the public prosecutor in the film excuses himself before the judge for taking up more time to present himself, I would like to raise an alert for a lengthy review because shortening up wouldn’t be justice to what this amazing and bold movie wants to convey.

Rishi Kapoor( Murad Ali Mohammed) is the patriarch of a happy joint family, an advocate by profession and a much-respected person in his small town neighbourhood in Benaras. Manoj Pahwa (Bilal) is his docile younger brother who runs a mobile shop and has a son Shahid (Prateek Babbar) who gets brainwashed and becomes an instrument in a bomb blast. Rishi has a son based in London and his daughter in law Arti ( Tapasee ) is incidentally in India when the catastrophe strikes. She too is a lawyer by profession.

The story opens with the focus on the happy family and the good relations they share amongst themselves and with their neighbours across religions. The focus remains on this set up for quite some time but the length is justified by the fact that so many subtle nuances about people, their camaraderie, their way of thinking is infused all throughout. For example, in an instance, a lady who was there for celebrations at their place says “ Gaana Bajaana toh thheek hai par khaate nahi inn logon ke yahan”.But at the same time,there are many others who are shown gorging on vegetarian and non-vegetarian delicacies irrespective of their religion.

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While Tapasee loves and adores her in-laws’ family, she is currently standing her ground against her husband who wants to decide what religion will their children be when they are born.

When the son is declared a terrorist and killed in an encounter, they are shattered with shock, disbelief and grief. And while they are still reeling with this sudden harsh fact, they are thrown against the antagonism of not only the society but also their close neighbours. Many of the long-standing friends and neighbours turn their backs but few stood by. Their plight and insecurity really move us.

A pitched battle in the court ensues when the prosecution accuses the entire family of harbouring a terrorist and makes Bilal and Murad Ali as co-accused.

And that’s when the story and the strong screenplay becomes the hero. Anubhav Sinha ( writer, director) ensures that he brings all the tinted prejudices out of the closets of the mind (some of which you might have had, and many of which you must have heard ). He uses some sharp dialogues to bring about the intended effect.

To some extent, It’s a natural human tendency to blame the family of a perpetrator. If its a rape or a murder or a robbery, we often find ourselves thinking the family did not raise the child right. We often blame the rising sexual crimes against women on the fact that we have not been raising our sons with the right ethics.
To that extent, the families of the terrorists are also to blame. But the story questions the extent to which we must take the blame. And is the blame purely logical or is coloured by our deep-lying prejudices needs to be seen.

I strongly feel that any pun intended or not intended, that targets any community or area or religion, about their way of living, what they eat or how they choose to observe their religion is not done. The same fact was emphasised in an amazing hard-hitting way even in Pink.

The script uses the public prosecutor as a mouthpiece to disgorge all the cringe-worthy things that are often read in all those despicable posts that go round in social media and whats app poisoning the minds of the mindless.

A very important couplet is used to expose the hypocratic brotherhood. While I do not remember the exact words ,it meant something like “hum ne unhe apna banaane ki koshish bahut ki par woh apne na ho paye.”

In a compelling dialogue, the use of “hum” and “ woh” that has polarised the minds of our society, is questioned. The judge also questions the parameters of deciding who is hum and woh is worth.

There’s a dialogue about how would the common man who fears for his security differentiate between whom to fear and whom not to. Does not justify the phobia but raises a valid point.

The judge, while in his balanced judgment, acquits the family but does give a very valid suggestion that families should be more aware of what’s happening in and around the family. Their ignorance or choice of keeping quiet about a certain fact can prove fatal.

Performances are great.

Rishi, even with less of dialogues, plays very well with a quiet intensity. He’s always a pleasure to watch.

Tapasee, who is mostly in the sidelines in the first half, gets a lion’s share of the solid courtroom dialogues towards the end and is superb with her sentimental aggression.

She was good at displaying the doubt and vulnerability when needed.

Manoj Pahwa is a much-loved actor usually in comic roles. Here he gets a chance to display a very different side of his ability as an actor. He was great as the docile, ignorant and defeated man.

Neena Gupta, as Rishi’s wife, supports well.

Ashutosh Rana is great as the sharp, sarcastic and dramatic prosecutor. Good to see him after a hiatus, the second time over after Dhadhak.
Kumud Mishra, as the judge, makes his presence felt with his expressions and some great dialogues.

I must mention that some superb dialogues teamed with good performances provide for many emotional and tearjerker scenes.

The real-locations of Lucknow and Benaras and been very well used in some great cinematography by Ewan Mulligan.

I found the music very good. The two earthy songs that run in the background actually well up a lot of emotions with their music and meaningful lyrics.

While there have been all kinds of controversies around the movie about the filmmaker being biased, I strongly refute that. He might have dramatised some bits tad more than required but the questions raised and the message is relevant. I agree that with less of dramatisation, the results could have been even better.

But overall this compelling movie is more than recommended. In commercial cinema, with such a sensitive subject, it’s as bold as it could have been.
Sounds ironic, but it’s as capable of polarising as its capable of conveying the thought-provoking message that aims at nothing but to bind. What you choose to see and absorb is entirely up to you.

Score 8 on 10

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