Movie Review: A flawed ‘Mulk’ has its heart in the right place

Generalization and divisiveness are centuries old global trends. If I commit a mass crime here, Singapore papers will report it as ‘Indian Banker does …’ .. that’s two generalizations; and it’s fair. But I would expect both, Indians and bankers, to come out and widely condemn the act. The communities won’t be tainted. They will check in house and willingly report about anyone, remotely involved. The Sikh community did the same in mid 1980s India. They openly condemned; reported their sons mis-givings, some gave up their turban and beard, some dissociated themselves with a religion that was attached to terrorism. Within a year or two, the taint got erased. Perhaps, that doesn’t happen as much within the Muslim community. Hence the word terrorism has got associated with them, for decades now. Instead, in every discussion, the defensive harping continues on Islam being the best religion, superior to other religions, others are inferior, run mass conversion programmes, discourage marriages to other community, use ‘us vs them’ more widely, use Mohammed Salah’s goals to promote conversion etc etc. At this rate, the taint will remain. As Rishi Kapoor rants aloud in the movie – if households don’t stop bursting crackers on Pakistan victories, the taint of anti-national will remain; and it’s fair.

Are we alert enough?

Mulk, director Anubhav Sinha’s, tenth and best movie, has its heart in the right place. The title ‘Mulk‘ instead of any other synonym is a clear direction that the movie takes. To highlight the plight of a Muslim family, one of whose members have been caught in the web of terrorism. The family, once a darling of the Benarasi neighbourhood; who for decades mixed, celebrated and protected each other; now stand isolated, accused and boycotted by the same locality. How could they miss their own son stealing sim cards, putting up VOIP antenna and mixing with the wrong people? Possible. Have you checked out your own son, lately? You will be surprised to know what his friends do, the abusive words he uses, how he ill-treats women or people from lower economic background. An excellent Kumud Mishra cameo (as judge) reiterates that message in the end – keep a close watch on your kids and report to authorities, the day you spot anything criminal.

Thought provoking

Anubhav Sinha’s excellently assembled cast keeps the viewer glued in a movie which many can dismiss as a moral science lecture on Islamophobia. It’s a sad reflection of Indians that they queued up to let ordinary movies like Race 3 and Sanju make 300+ crore rupees box office collections, but will avoid going to a Mulk. It’s true, Mulk lacks an entertainment quotient, is slow paced (could have been 40 mins shorter), takes time to change gears, packs a few cliches (Muslims accused of having too many wives, too many kids, low priority to education, live in ghettos, an extreme Hindu caricature lawyer etc) but at the end, the movie makes you introspect. It tries it’s best to counter cliches with common sense. Leading those words are an excellent Taapsee Pannu (the only bright spark in the first 30 slow minutes), Ashutosh Rana and offcourse Rishi Kapoor. They make you think.

Strong Performances

Then there are two characters who make you weep. Manoj Pahwa, the imprisoned father of the accused, unable to justify his past carelessness, or soak in the sudden shocks or check his deteriorating health amidst the crisis. He loses everything that he earned over his lifetime, including his life, for no fault of his. The other powerful performer with minimal dialogues is Rajat Kapoor – a Muslim SSP, everyday on trial to prove his efficiency, prejudiced just as anyone else and eager to finish off Muslim terrorists – hoping it helps erase the taint faster. He is a person so torn, that his being a good human gets easily overshadowed. It’s possible in life, we are good humans too, but our prejudices and rigid mindsets are overshadowing any goodness we have. When was the last time you hired a help, rented your house or gave a job to a person from a community you dislike? Are your views and thinking still divisive and generalizing?

Rating : 3.25/5

Mulk is a must watch movie at home or inside a hall. Go with your partner and get into an intensive discussion after the show. I did too. As a generation, we are slowly losing the art of getting into focused, detailed, discussions and debates. Mulk is an applaud worthy movie. Singapore noon show, Sunday, at heart of the city, had a packed hall and people clapped on a few scenes towards the end too.

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