Verdict - Mulk Is Not A Particularly Well Made Film, But For Once It Is About What It Says Rather Than How It Is Said
How often have we made a casual joke about a group that we do not
consider ourselves a part of? How often have we avoided sitting beside
a kurta clad bearded man in public transport? How often have we
reveled in our progressiveness because we have a Muslim friend?
Islamophobia is not breaking masjids or killing innocent Muslim but
rather a feeling of 'them' and 'us' that has been ingrained in us for
a long time.
It is exactly these daily prejudices and the horrible summation of
these tricky equations that Anubhav Sinha attempts to explore in his
new directorial Mulk.
The story of the film is fairly simple. A son of a Muslim family from
Benaras gets lured into 'jihad' becomes the main accomplice in a blast
that kills 16 civillians, gets killed in an encounter and the family
and especially the father and his elder brother is hounded by law to
prove that this is a family that is in bed with terrorism.
In a very smart manner the backdrop of the story has been kept Benaras
where 'aarti' of the mandir of the gully minges with the 'azaan' of
the masjid. It is this same gully that Ali Mohammed played by a
stupendous Rishi Kapoor sits with Chaubey for his morning chai on his
way back from namaaz and celebrates his 65th birthday with Sonkar and
other people from the mohalla who have their own filters. Some hasve
no qualms coming to a Muslim household for celebration but won't eat
there, some eats kebab and korma in hiding and claims to be a
vegetarian in-front of the wife.
But when the tragedy strikes, suddenly things become us v/s them.
Interestingly enough the daughter-in-law of the house, who is also a
firebrand lawyer is a Hindu woman named Aarti played by Tapsee Pannu,
who is visting the family from London where she stays with his husband
and another son of the house Aftab and both of them are facing a rough
time in their marriage as Aftab is keen deciding the religion of their
baby before it is born. Although not very integral to the plot, it
adds a layer to the storythat is interesting. Forget all pf Tapsee's
other performances, because there is a particuar scene is the film
where she is passionately trying to prove this dynamic of us v/s them
in the court while tackling a horrible emotional meltdown and it is
this scene that she should be remembered for as an actress.
After the tragedy befalls and stuns this household, the majority of
the film plays out as a court-room drama and a pretty powerful one at
that. Ashutosh Rana as the public prosecuter is the mirror image of
the presumption and bias that we reflect but do not accept. On paper
we claim to respect all religions but somewhere in the back of our
head have our biases in place which rears its ugly head everytime the
dynamic of them and us is tested.
One of the most applude worthy effort of the movie is its take on
terrorism and its impact. We see the investgating officer of the case
Danish Javed, played by Rajat Kapoor, who wants this case to be an
example as he is tired of the prejudices that people have against his
religion and thus considers encounter of Shahid to be the right path
instead of arresting him. It also raises a very pertinent question as
to our definition of terrorism. Is untouchability, casteism not a form
a terrorism? Or have we come to equate religion with terrorism?
There is a particular scene in the film where Rishi Kapoor says that
the only way you can prove your love is by loving someone. People of a
community that we have systematically been biased and prejudiced
against in this country are the same people who chose their love for
this country above their love for their religion when the partion
happened, and as he puts it another brilliant court room scene, if we
can't spot the difference between the beard of Osama Bin Laden and a
Ali Mohammed from Benaras, the onus is on us to change our perception
and not on them to prove otherwise. We are not really doing them favor
by welcoming them, because they do not need a welcome in their own
house and country.
Cinematically Mulk is far from being flawless. There are unimportant
layers, disjointed flow and even one can see Anubahv Sinha trying too
hard to drive a point home by either spoonfeeding or at times over
dramaisation. But Mulk deserves an applaud for the point it makes and
perhaps should not be judged for the way the point is made.
Apart from the lead cast, Kumud Mishra as the judge, in his limited
role, reminds us why he is an actor you can always depend on and Neena
Gupta as the Ali Mohammad's wife is effortless as usual. It is through
the help of this stupendous supporting cast that include Prachi Shah
and Manoj Pahwa as well, Anubhav Sinha makes you feel the fear,
insecurities and tragedies that the family deals with.
Going beyond the Hindu-Muslim crisis, Mulk is a film about how
strongly prejudices impact our perceptions and it is for this and this
alone, it is a film that deserves not only to be watched but even
talked about, because it is not only high time but rather we are