“Jab ladki logo ko akal aati hai na, toh sab unhe Pagglait hi kehte hai!” This dialogue encapsulates the essence of Umesh Bist’s Netflix film Pagglait. After years of being told what to do by others, when a girl simply takes over the reins of her own life and makes her own decisions, she is called a maniac, psycho, freak and several other things.
In this film, Sanya Malhotra’s Sandhya is a freak. She is a widow, whose husband, Astik, of a 5-month-old marriage, has passed away. While the ancestral home of her in-laws keeps flooding with mourners, she tries to get on with the day by reading their condolence messages on social media. She is unaffected by her husband’s death and finds it hard to put on a gloomy face.
Sandhya’s unfazed phase soon turns into disgust when she finds out about Astik’s colleague and ex-girlfriend Akansha, played by Sayani Gupta. She confronts Akansha, but instead of being bitter, she finds an affiliation with her. Though Sandhya was Astik’s wife, it was Akansha who really knew him. Sandhya keeps meeting Akansha on the pretext of knowing more about her dead husband, but what she really wants to do is observe Akansha’s infectious independence. Sandhya is wide-eyed. From her office to home, Sandhya keenly looks at Akansha’s life and draws inspiration from it.
Pagglait takes us close to the marriage-crazy culture of our society. In the film, Sanya’s character is an MA topper, but her qualification is utilised only to find her a well-earning groom. The film also comments on arranged marriage, where two people decide to spend their life together only to satisfy their families and society. Love is a concept that is too inane, immature for them. Even the so-called ‘woke’, ‘independent’ Akansha and Astik couldn’t break free from this outdated cycle.
The film also points out the hypocrisy of our culture. Raghubir Yadav, who plays the role of an angry uncle, talks about Sandhya’s remarriage openly, claiming to be ‘open-minded,’ but flinches every time her Muslim friend passes by. Money is the only religion we follow, and the film also takes a dig at it in a very subtle manner.
Pagglait’s power lies in its dialogues and camera work. Cinematographer Rafey Mehmood captures the Ganga ghat in all its beauty and complexity, giving meaning to the film’s dialogues written by Umesh Bist. The one scene where Astik’s family members perform puja at the Ganga ghat while Sandhya eats golgappas particularly stands out. The editing of the film is also on point. The scene shifts from one location to another seamlessly.
The film’s star cast also deserves credit here. Each actor has performed their part well, without overdoing it. Sanya Malhotra looks at ease in the film. She comes off as a natural in Sandhya’s role. Raghubir Yadav as the ever-angry uncle is a delight to watch. He fills this drama with much-needed comic relief. You just can’t get enough of him scolding people around him. Sheeba Chaddha and Ashutosh Rana as Sandhya’s in-laws also excel.
The film’s music, composed by Arijit Singh, is its biggest asset. Songs like Thode Kam Ajnabi, Dill Udd Jaa Re and Lamha provides the emotional arc to the film and blends effortlessly with different sequences.
Though Pagglait largely comes off as a well-made film, it chokes under the burden of too many topics. Along with religion and marriage, the film also makes a commentary on the menstrual cycle which seems unnecessary. The scenes where Sandhya coaxes Akansha to reveal details about her relationship with Astik also looks repetitive and jarring.
Among a slew of women-centric films, Pagglait doesn’t stand out but it is surely a wholesome entertainer. Watch Pagglait this weekend on Netflix.
3 out of 5 stars.
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