With lockdown, the movie theater has come into my bedroom because my TV is in my bedroom 🙂 . Though not a great movie or TV watcher, once in a while, I do scroll different apps. Yesterday, I happened to go on Netflix and Pagglait caught my attention. I misunderstood it for “pigtail” as Paggtail was not in my vocabulary. I watched it’s trailor and liked it. So gave my almost 2 hours to watch this movie.
Pagglait covers the period between Astik’s cremation and tehrvi, the concluding ceremonies on the 13th day after his passing. The title comes from the word “paagal”, which is Hindi for “crazy”, “mad”, sometimes “foolish”. It indicates the churning in Sandhya’s mind and in her life during this decisive phase that leads her to unleash the “crazy” within her.
Cast: Sanya Malhotra , Ashutosh Rana, Raghbir Yadav, Sheeba Chaddha, Sayani Gupta, Chetan Sharma, Rajesh Tailang, Meghna Malik, Preeti Khare
Director: Umesh Bisht
Story: This is the story of a young woman who was widowed soon after marriage and unable to grieve. The behaviour of quirky relatives and a startling discovery about her late husband has helped her to grow as an independent person. Beyond the mourning family activities like family gossips, financial wranglings and personal tensions all are woven through with deft direction but keeps its focus on the family’s attitude towards the newly widowed woman.
Sandhya Giri (Sanya Malhotra) loses her husband Astik soon after their marriage. His relativs condemn her in the way Hindu society often does in such circumstances. “No, she is not Manglik. Their horoscopes were matched,” one of them (Meghna Malik) tells someone in the film’s opening moments. This sums up the protagonist family “Giris” and their extended family as not the worst among conservatives, but they are not progressive either.
Sandhya is like any girl next door, who lets her elders decide for her. She has so far gone along with choices made on her behalf. Her MA degree earned her a husband with a salary that impressed her middle-class parents. She got married to the man her parents found for her. Now that he is gone, she is struggling to figure out why she feels no sadness.
This calm narrative style is a strength. It is matched by the shades of grey in all the characters: none of them are all-out evil, but they are no saints either, and they err in the most human of ways.
Pagglait then is not without hitches, but it is all heart with substance to match. The spotlight remains on Sandhya throughout, but the sidelights too are rich in detail, from observations about forbidden love and sexually curious teens in a traditional family, to that gorgeous Lucknowi home, and an unlikely bond forming between women who would have been pitted against each other by a writer prone to stereotyping.
There’s the grieving father discussing gadde (mattresses) ka rate, an elderly relative (Raghuvir Yadav) simmering at the raunchy, inappropriate door bell, Nazia Zaidi being served tea in special, separate cups, gossip, snide remarks, old grouses, a bed-ridden Daadi, one know-all government-servant relative.
It is a very creative experience to hear the call of a muezzin laid over the opening aerial shot of the city (Lukhnow)from wherethe camera travels all the way to Shanti Kunj where Sandhya lives. You can relate to every sequence of the film. Teenage love between cousines, family’s reaction to Sandhya’s Muslim friend who stays with them for 13 days, change in the relatives’ attitude when they got to know about 50 Lakh received by Sandhya from insurance and an affair of her husband with his collegue. You have it all these and much more. Sandhya’s churning from all these as a strong and independent woman, the movie has all of it. It is definitely a movie of our times of changing social norms.
Hindi films, even progressive ones, have down the decades depicted widows as tragic figures. There is nothing miserable or sentimental about the portrayal of Sandhya. Not that she is a Rani Laxmibai either. She’s a regular woman leading a regular life of conformism who has an awakening in the midst of a tragedy. Pagglait’s big win is that it spots the potential for extraordinariness within apparent ordinariness.
The only break in Pagglait’s tone comes with the song ‘Phire Faqeera’ playing in the background at one point. The title track is generic, but ‘Dil Udd Ja Re’ and ‘Thode Kam Ajnabi’ are pleasantly pensive albeit too similar sounding to each other. Singh has filled it with female singers, which is unusual even for women-centred Bollywood films. Neeti Mohan is lovely, and I love the buttery-voiced Himani Kapoor who sings ‘Thode Kam Ajnabi.
Ashutosh Rana, Sheeba Chaddha, Rajesh Tailang, Raghubir Yadav , Sayani Gupta and Shruti are excellent.
Bist maintains a deceptively equanimous tone throughout Pagglait, although it kicks off with a tragedy and what subsequently occurs with Sandhya is also dramatic.
A must watch film, if you love the small town anecdotes.
Rating – 4/5
Photo credits – Google