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With wonderfully 3 dimensional characters, Pagglait questions patriarchal stereotypes without becoming preachy, and is a must watch.
The movie ‘Pagglait’ which premiered on Netflix yesterday begins with a sense of sombre calmness which the death of a loved one is bound to bring about. But, soon it transcends to something more and one is left wondering that even the death of something/someone can ironically at times give more than it takes away.
Directed by Umesh Bisht, ‘Pagglait’ centers around a young widow Sandhya Giri, played deftly by Sanya Malhotra, who finds herself unable to feel sorrow and play the part of a bereaved widow much to the surprise of her relatives.
Sandhya herself is bemused by the fact that she cannot bring herself to feel sad and mourn the loss of her husband of five months. Her friend Nazia comes to visit her in her time of distress when she learns about her husband’s death via a Facebook post. Sandhya shares her predicament with her friend while also craving for Pepsi and chips. These scenes reminded me of a scene from the movie ‘Lunchbox’ wherein Lillete Dubey craves for good food right after her husband’s demise.
Moving on we witness that Sandhya’s marital home – a large but decrepit old mansion- situated in the alleys of Lucknow is throbbing with relatives who are there in the hour of grief.
Not everyone who is here is grief-stricken, and this makes up for a medley of gossip monger women to bored but hormonal teenagers. It is also subtly depicted as to how death brings along with it paraphernalia of rituals. These rituals which are carried on for thirteen days are meant to prepare the relatives of the deceased to ‘let go’. There are different rules to adhere to during the thirteen day mourning period. But, hypocrisy reigns here as well as the deceased’s younger brother catches his disciplinarian Tayaji (played by veteran actor Raghubir Yadav) drinking while the young lad himself is instructed to eat unpalatable food and avoid drinking and smoking.
One of the relatives (played by Jameel Khan) who is a banker but can quote Shakespeare and is abreast with a lot of other things, mentions with a hint of a know-all air that Sandhya probably has PTSD while everyone else looks at him agape. At this juncture we are not privy to the fact as to what really ails Sandhya, but it says a lot about how we still have a ‘one size fits all’ approach to how one handles grief. Just because someone doesn’t cry her eyes out, it is presumed that something is terribly amiss.
The head of the Giri household is played to perfection by Ashutosh Rana who is grappling to come to terms with the death of his elder son. His wife Usha Giri portrayed by the brilliant Sheeba Chaddha has sorrow written all over, and she gives a nuanced performance of a mother who has just lost her son.
The protagonist Sandhya, amidst the cacophony of relatives and rituals, makes a discovery about her deceased husband –Astik Giri.
She realizes that she hardly knew her husband, and discerns as to why they were in a loveless marriage of sorts. Sayani Gupta makes a special appearance and the scenes between her and Sandhya are layered and also prompt one to wonder as to how two people can bond in the unlikeliest of situations.
The film presents to us motley of characters each with idiosyncrasies and quirks. The most endearing character is that of the aged grandmother who doesn’t utter a single word, except her daughter in law’s name during the course of the film but is the only person in the big household whom Sandhya can open her heart to as she would just smile and wouldn’t judge her or deem her ‘pagglait’.
It is also interesting to see that the deceased Astik Giri never makes an appearance, not even in a flashback. Probably, it was symbolic of the aspect that he remained as much a mystery to us as he was for his young wife Sandhya.
The charm of ‘Pagglait’ lies in the fact that though it questions patriarchy and is a social commentary of sorts not once does it appears preachy.
We witness Sandhya’s friend Nazia who is served tea in a different cup just because she is a Muslim.
We see Tayaji (Raghubir Yadav) who claims boastfully that he is quite ‘open-minded’ but cringes when Nazia takes part in the Hindu rites.
It was also perturbing to see the characters perform stereotypical roles in the household. Women serve food while men look into the administrative affairs. But, this is just a reflection of how our society primarily functions.
As the thirteen day period of mourning reaches its culmination, Sandhya traverses through a flurry of emotions and finds her voice and calling. How I wish it didn’t have to take the death of someone for her to be born again!
Sure to warm the cockles of your heart, ‘Pagglait’ is indeed a wonderful film.
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