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Movie Review: Mulk

Banners: Benaras Mediaworks, Soham Rockstar Entertainment

Producers: Deepak Mukut, Anubhav Sinha

Director: Anubhav Sinha

Cast: Rishi Kapoor, Manoj Pahwa, Taapsee Pannu, Rajat Kapoor, Ashutosh Rana, Kumud Mishra, Prateik Babbar, Neena Gupta, Prachee Shah Paandya, Vartika Singh

Writer: Anubhav Sinha

Music: Prasad Sashte, Anurag Saikia

Mulk is a bold, bold film. It is a story that needed to be told. It is a film that needs to be watched. It has emerged as a film that is most relevant to the current socio-political fabric of contemporary India.

Anubhav Sinha’s directorial centres on Murad Ali Mohammad and his family, and their struggle to prove that all Muslims are not terrorists. The film throws open a bunch of questions. What is jihad? Why is Islam the only religion that is subjected to so many prejudices? What goes on inside a Muslim household? Why must they keep proving their love for the nation time and again?  

Set in the Hindu town of Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh, Mulk is about two ageing brothers, Murad and Bilal, their wives – both of whom are called Tabassum – and Bilal’s children Shahid and Aayat. Murad’s son Aftab is married to Aarti, a lawyer who comes to Varanasi to celebrate Murad’s 65th birthday who is also an advocate. Bilal is unemployed.

In an unexpected turn of events Shahid’s  name is revealed as a terrorist who blew a bus up, in the name of jihad. He is shot in an encounter by anti-terror squad officer SSP Danish Javed. All hell breaks loose and thus begins the family’s journey of proving their innocence and Mulk’s journey of imparting lessons on aatankvaad, jihad, deshdroh, communal prejudice and religion-based presumptions. 

The film opens with a panoramic and aerial shot of the holy town, backed by a musical version of a Kabir doha. It immediately establishes an atmosphere of secularism. The dingy lanes, paan-stained walls and cozy households of Varanasi have been captured beautifully by cinematographer Ewan Mulligan. He paints a heart-wrenching and melancholic picture of the terrorist attack.

This is the toughest film in Sinha’s oeuvre. And he aces it. He has helmed an interesting canvas that never looks dull. Every frame keeps you hooked and makes you wonder what will happen next.

Mulk is a bitter experience for all the right reasons. It makes you sit up and take notice by pointing out the latent xenophobia and the concealed Islamophobia. The film leaves you with a smile.

There is neither room for monotony nor subtlety in this social drama. The in-your-face approach that the narrative takes is the only weak link in the film. The intense courtroom scenes in the second half of the film are a little too theatrical and verbose.

Performance-wise, Rishi Kapoor’s grim performance as the patriarch of the family is remarkable. Taapsee Pannu is slowly emerging as one of the best actresses of our generation. She does full justice to her role. She handles the lighter moments as well as the emotionally intense ones with equal ease. Manoj Pahwa’s performance as a vulnerable father is heart-breaking. Prateik Babbar as Shahid fails to showcase his acting chops.

Rajat Kapoor as Danish Javed, an uptight, headstrong and prejudiced officer, stands out.  Most of the comic lines belong to Ashutosh Rana, who plays Santosh Anand, the public prosecutor and antagonist, and Kumud Mishra, who plays the judge. Mishra’s comic delivery at the peak of some of the heaviest moments in the courtroom, steal the show. Neena Gupta and Prachee Shah Paandya give memorable performances. Indraneil Sengupta’s role as Aarti’s husband is underwritten. Vartika Singh as Aayat is a revelation.

Verdict: Worth a dekho!

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