Pagglait Hindi Movie Review
In Umesh Bist's Pagglait, Sanya Malhotra plays a young woman named Sandhya who comes to terms with the death of her husband Astik. The man's whole family is shell-shocked by his death, but Sandhya feels indifferent about it. Sandhya may not feel like crying, but she feels constant hunger and a desire to venture out for Panipuri. The first thing she does the day after Astik's death is yawn when seeing the copied condolence messages on her Facebook page. The first thing she demands, at that time, is Pepsi and a packet of chips. One family member says she is suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, but we know that she is only a little paagal (crazy).
She is part of a traditional Indian family that follows age-old conventions. The members must mourn the death and follow a religious ritual for 13 days, until the dead man's final ceremony in the Ganges. The dead person is represented as a hanging milk pot outside the family residence. Sandhya wonders what all the religious stuff is for. She has never come to terms with the non-European toilet in the family. So, all the religious routines go way over her head.
But her fortune changes as she learns that her husband has left her a large amount in life insurance, and that he had a secret lover. See how the family reacts to the news of Sandhya being the sole nominee for Astik's insurance policy. It is pure comic gold, as are the moments where the residence's calling bell works with the 'Ooh La La' song from 'The Dirty Picture'.
The head of the house, played by Raghubir Yadav, urges Astik's father (Ashutosh Rana) to bribe the man who handles the policy so that he could get a lion's share of the amount. Astik was the sole breadwinner for the family. So, his demise left them with no option but to try amoral ways to pay off the house loan. The family may be mourning Astik's death, but their approach towards the household's financial affairs is stinking.
Pagglait is a refreshing take on the usual new widow situation in a patriarchal Indian family. The film moves at a leisurely pace, with the occasional humor and often-serious moments. Yet, it never turns into a sappy and sentimental film. Sanya Malhotra plays the role of a widow, sister-in-law, and young woman seeking a new life with much restraint. I could see her as the 'bhabhi' of the family and as the widow. She is pitch-perfect in this role.
As Astik's parents, Ashutosh Rana and Sheeba Chadha make mourning look quite affecting. The depth of Rana's voice befits that of a mourning father. On the other hand, Raghubir Yadav as the family head makes us cringe and laugh virtually at the same time. Yadav has done this role many times before, so he makes it all look effortless.
Bist's Pagglait script falters a little bit in etching out the slightly strained and complicated relationship between Sandhya and Astik's former lover. There are also many nice songs in this drama, but some of those are ill-timed, to say the least. Those minor flaws aside, this Netflix dark comedy has everything going for it.