MULK (2018)

  • Release Date: 03/08/2018
  • Cast: Tapsee Pannu, Rishi Kapoor, Manoj Pahwa, Neena Gupta, Prateik Babbar, Rajat Kapoor, Ashutosh Rana
  • Director:  Anubhav Sinha

Mulk is Anubhav Sinha’s best contribution to the Indian film and television industry after Sea Hawk which I loved as a kid. His films have been extremely amateurish in their execution of subjects ranging between superhero, bank heist, international terrorism, and even romance. However, apart from Dus that I found wickedly entertaining (in good and bad ways), Ra.One which had wonderful VFX and maybe Tathastu which had a soulful performance by Sanjay Dutt, all his films ended up being average to bad. Hence even though I was intrigued by the Mulk trailer, I was keeping my fingers crossed. Thankfully Anubhav Sinha is able to make a film that is mostly devoid of all previous Anubhav Sinha limitations.

Murad Ali Mohammad’s (Rishi Kapoor) life is ravaged when a family member of his is killed in an encounter with the police after he masterminds a terror attack which kills many. Murad and his family are clueless of their family member’s involvement in the attack but are nevertheless pulled into the firing line when Murad’s brother Bilal (Manoj Pahwa) is held as an accomplice in the attack and even Murad comes under the scanner. He now has to depend on his advocate daughter-in-law Aarti (Tapsee) to not only clear his name and acquit Bilal but also to speak for the insults and prejudice that he has had to endure within a matter of days in the same community where he has lived his whole life.

Mulk is a gritty and serious film that is characterized by some simmering drama that unfolds mostly in the second half. The film starts slow. I really had to wait a while before anything substantial happened and I have to be honest that it somewhat got on my nerves to wait this long to come to the point that I had already seen in the trailers. However, once the case rolls, the film quickly gets tense and absorbing. The give and takes between the lawyers are chatty, engrossing and witty. As the case moves forward, we get sneak peeks into Murad’s various encounters with the society, prejudiced police, and friends who hate him now and think that he should go back to Pakistan. Through these peeks we get to understand the essence of Murad’s psyche that in so many ways characterizes the psyche of a whole community.

The film shows in graphic details the extent of abuses that can be hurled at a community as the prosecuting lawyer played wonderfully by Ashutosh Rana, goes ahead and calls out the Muslim community to be illiterate, prejudiced against other religions, having no regard for population control and ensuring that atleast one of their family members is dedicated to the cause of terrorism. As the film progresses, Aarti and Murad, through their interplay prove how ill-placed all these misconceptions are.

In dealing with a subject like this, it was extremely easy for the director to have gone overboard with jingoism (easier so for Anubhav Sinha) but surprisingly Sinha plays it low key which in so many ways makes the screenplay that much more shattering. Mulk’s soul lies not only in its content but in its authoritative performances.

Tapsee Pannu is quickly becoming one of Bollywood top notch actresses. Not heroine…actress. She so organically transitions between the Judwaas and the Pinks that one cannot help but applaud her range. However, I feel that she is in her comfort zone when she is doing content driven roles and Mulk stretches her to the boundaries that she touched in Pink. Here she has a much more heroic act and plays a character that has a lot more to do. But even in that she never abandons the humane side of Aarti. Apart from the courtroom scenes that ought to have been the high points of her act, she shares some interesting dynamics with Rishi Kapoor’s Murad in the seclusion of his palatial house which bears a deserted look after the tragedy strikes their family. These scenes I believe were extremely well done and just underline the acting prowess of Tapsee as she holds her own in front of a seasoned actor like Rishi Kapoor.

Rishi Kapoor is brilliant in a role that is again very different and has a distinct shade to it. He played a wretched villain in Agneepath. Then a sexually charged grandfather in Kapoor and Sons, then a hapless old man in 102 Not Out and now here he plays a fiery advocate who has enough fire in his belly to burn through all the red tape, abuses and prejudice to prove the innocence of his brother in the court of law. He suits the role perfectly and there wasn’t any instance when I didn’t take him to be Murad Ali Mohammad. Rajat Kapoor has a cameo at best but he leaves an indelible mark on the whole film. It was a perfect casting choice. Ashutosh Rana as the prosecuting lawyer is vile, sadistic and exactly what you want him to be. Manoj Pahwa is great as Bilal. Kumud Misra as the judge has a delightful cameo.

Mulk is an important film that is as entertaining as it is eye-opening. I see myself watching this film a lot many times more before I get tired of it. It is a good courtroom drama sans the usual Bollywood theatrics in a courtroom. It raises the right questions and answers them with power and conviction. It has great performances and sans the initial portions, the film is riveting. This is easily one of the better films of 2018 and should definitely be checked out.

Rating: 3.5/5 (3.5 out of 5 Stars)  

 

 

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