Wikipedia describes Pagglait as a ‘dark comedy drama film.’ The movie is neither comical nor bleak. Elucidating on a theme that is interesting, but not Avant Garde, Director, Umesh Bist has done an appreciable job in assessing the pulse of the viewer. Pagglait is a cathartic experience of a young widow over the course of a thirteen day ritual following the untimely demise of her husband. Sandhya (Sanya Malhotra) loses her spouse Astik (unnamed and unseen) in unexpected circumstances and before she can even come to grips with her monumental loss, she is caught in a whirlpool of intricate family politics, bickering and a gobsmacking revelation.
The film begins with a family beset with grief upon the loss of a young son. Shivendra Giri (Ashutosh Rana), and his wife Usha (Sheeba Chaddha) receive a rude jolt when their son Astik dies suddenly. Even when they are coming to terms with their irreparable loss, a deluge of relatives add to the chaos and confusion. To add insult to agony, Sandhya finds a photograph of a beautiful woman carefully hidden amongst the possessions of her late husband. By a strange quirk of coincidence, Sandhya finds out that her husband’s past lover (or a carefully hidden current flame?) happens to be his workplace colleague, Akanksha (Sayani Gupta). Sandhya is now left to grapple with a new dilemma. Should she weep over the loss of a husband whom she did not even know well, or should she disparage him for two timing her in a remorseless fashion?
Paggalait is a story of loss, pain, realisation, recouping, relief, and resurrection. Sanya Malhotra as a confused and confounded Sandhya essays her role to perfection. She is the epitome of patience, perplexity, and perseverance. She has an admirable poise that endears her to her audience. Ashutosh Rana as the grieving father is at his muted best. Walking the tightrope between eccentric relatives and the private mourning over the loss of a son, Rana demonstrates why he is easily one of the best in the business. He executes his role with a panache that is effortless. Raghubir Yadav, as Pappu (also referred to as Tayyaji) the elder brother of Shivendra, is irascibly brilliant. Hypocritical, irritating and dominating, Yadav is his inimitable self. Whether it be admonishing family members for their recalcitrance over a neglected ritual or consuming alcohol himself after dictating a period of prohibition for the rest, Yadav is his usual exemplary self. Sheeba Chaddha, in the role of a bereaved mother warms the very cockles of the heart. Helpless, hapless, and hurried, she is a poor women who is shackled to the dictates of not just elaborate procedures but also the damned pestilence of a coterie of a chatty and insensitive group of people.
As a result of the COVID-19 outbreak, with Standard Operating Procedures such as social distancing etc putting paid to the hopes of people flocking to the movies, the Over The Top (“OTT”) segment of the entertainment industry has elevated itself to a new level. The quality of some of the documentaries and movies is enticingly captivating. “Pagglait” squarely belongs to this category. Even though dealing with a topic and elaborating on a theme that is not novel by any stretch of imagination, the movie succeeds beyond any semblance of doubt in capturing the imagination of its viewers.
Here’s to more of such madness!