A young widow, who has barely gotten a chance to know her husband, cannot mourn her partner’s death. Instead, she just wants to gorge herself silly in Umesh Bist’s lovely and heartfelt Pagglait (2021). Sanya Malhotra leads this talented ensemble of actors who journey alongside her as she becomes free, of societal and familial burdens and everyone’s perception of how a person should behave when their partner dies.
Among the many beautiful, stunning things she has said about grief, acclaimed American writer Joan Didion had once said about the process of mourning: “Grief turns out to be a place none of us know until we reach it. We anticipate (we know) that someone close to us could die, but we do not look beyond the few days or weeks that immediately follow such an imagined death. We misconstrue the nature of even those few days or weeks. We might expect if the death is sudden to feel shock. We do not expect the shock to be obliterative, dislocating to both body and mind. We might expect that we will be prostrate, inconsolable, crazy with loss. We do not expect to be literally crazy, cool customers who believe that their husband is about to return and need his shoes. In the version of grief we imagine, the model will be ‘healing.’ A certain forward movement will prevail.”
Didion uses the word crazy — crazy with loss, crazy to the point of being delusional, believing that a permanent shift has not taken place in one’s life, like their worldview will not change. In Pagglait, Sanya’s character Sandhya’s world changes, because she is not able to process the death of her husband. How to mourn someone whom you barely spoke with? Turns out, he never really loved her, not like he loved his college sweetheart, Sayani Gupta’s Akansha Roy. But he felt enough for her to name her as a nominee in his life insurance policy. Sandhya now stands to inherit Rs 50 lakh. Later, she gets a proposal from one of her brothers-in-law, Aditya (Nakul Roshan), who plays actor Rajesh Tailang‘s son in the film. A myriad of emotions, clashing with each other constantly, it is only natural for our heroine to be confused.
Tailang, who plays a pivotal role in the movie, told indianexpres.com about the one-line brief he was lightly given by director Umesh Bist to deliver his performance: “Aise socho ki ye maut ka Hum Aapke Hain Koun..! hai (Think of it like a much somber, darker version of the family entertainer HAHK).”
Talking about the sequence when Rajesh’s character (uncle of the dead husband) discovers that his son Aditya has been lied to about Sandhya’s non-existent pregnancy, we see his character’s teen daughter explain to a houseful of elders how Sandhya could not have conceived, as she had her periods a few days ago. “She is the one teaching everyone, who should know this better,” Rajesh said.
Speaking further about the film, Rajesh added that the reason why he said yes to it was primarily because of Sanya Malhotra’s character’s arc, and how the makers attempted to show her journey of self actualisation.
“The realisation of the path was very internal, baaki filmon mein dikha dete hai cigarette pi rahi hai, sharaab pi rahi hai (other films tend to take the lazy route, showing a woman drinking or smoking in order to present how liberated she is), that is not the only way to show what a liberated woman looks like,” the actor concluded.
Pagglait is available to stream on Netflix.
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