In January, I got an opportunity to interact with Yvan Galermo, the talented man responsible for trailers of world-famous brands like Emmy’s 2020, Fast & Furious 7, Ballers, and many more. It was only after talking to him that I realized cutting a trailer requires a different skill set. The trailer is nothing but a short film that strategically conveys the plot, making the audience curious enough to invest 2 hours of their life in watching the entire movie. Come the new Netflix‘s original film ‘Pagglait,’ I was reminded of my conversation with Yvan.
Pagglait is a Bollywood drama film written and directed by Umesh Bist that gives us a snapshot of the Giri family when they have lost their eldest son – Astik. The film starts with Astik’s cremation and ends at the Teravin (the 13th day after cremating a dead body which is also considered the final day of mourning after a death). The film revolves around Sandhya (Sanya Malhotra) and her journey from being an oblivious girl to a self-reliant woman within the shadows of a patriarchal family who expects Sandhya to live up to the propriety expectation from a widow.
Straight off the bat, I am so glad that Sanya Malhotra got a chance to play the lead character in this film. There has never been any doubt that Malhotra is a fine actress. However, all her previous films have had strong co-actors, due to which it was tough for the audience to appreciate her finesse. Not anymore! Malhotra has done a phenomenal job acting her heart out to show us the metamorphosis of a woman’s journey. The actress explained that to prepare for the role, she started journaling as Sandhya to understand her character in a more profound sense. A few of the thought process that she went through were – “How silence eats her up at the end of one month of marriage leading her to realize…The happiness she was expecting from the person was unrealistic. So now, she has to find that happiness inside her”. Fullmarks to Malhotra for her performance in this film.
Speaking of performances, Pagglait’s supporting cast is one of the best I have seen so far. We have Ashutosh Rana and Sheeba Chaddha playing helpless parents who have lost their son. Additionally, we find the stellar Raghubir Yadav playing the role of Taayaji, who seems to have mastered the art of playing the role of a cynical uncle who is often the self-appointed righteous person in the family. Apart from them, we have actors from the caliber of Rajesh Tailang, Jameel Khan, Aasif Khan, and a few others who come together brilliantly to form a typical dysfunctional Indian family that operates under the shadows of comparison and insecurities. This film also has Sayani Gupta playing the role of Astik’s colleague ‘Aakansha.’ From playing the rebel character ‘Gaura’ in Artice 15 to playing a controlled and restrained ‘Aakansha,’ I wonder why we haven’t seen much of her in the past few years. She is a capable actor that deserves more screen time.
Coming to the technicians, I absolutely loved Rafey Mehmood‘s cinematography throughout the film. Despite being shot at an old rustic house and having mundane objects on the screen, the cinematography enhances the characters in every scene. Being a second unit camera operator in Lagaan, Mehmood has come a long way, and I absolutely loved observing the contrasting colors used effectively. Pagglait also marks Arijit Singh‘s debut as a music composer, and just like his voice, his music doesn’t disappoint. Despite having a stellar cast and top-drawer technicians, Pagglait fell short for me for two reasons.
The script has a few fallacies for its own good. There are several subplots in the film that do not contribute to the film’s core messaging. We see the tokenism of Islamophobia followed by an unclear bond between Astik’s younger brother and Sandhya, a 15-year family rift that is mentioned only once, and a budding love story between the youngest (school going) distant cousin, etc. There is also a disconnect between Akanksha’s mannerism to the way her character is portrayed. An independent woman, who is the Vice President of a company and who lives alone in a house with a waterfront view, refrains from marrying the love of her life because her family doesn’t allow it?! Seems far-fetched!
However, my big beef is with the marketing of this film. Pagglait‘s trailer gives us an impression that this film belongs to the comedy genre, whereas the film is skewed to be dramatic with humor at a bare minimum. This film showcases the transition from the age-old repression that reduces a woman’s identity to a widow to the self-reliant individual who ends up filling the shoes of her deceased husband. It is perhaps the combination of convoluted subplots and the mistreatment of the film’s trailer that doesn’t allow the audience to marvel at the unique relationship between Sandhya and Aakansha.
It is for this precise reason that I appreciate people in Yvan’s role who play an integral part in the marketing of the film by cutting the right promo.
However, when I think of it, Pagglait isn’t the first IP that has been marketed wrong by Netflix. Its web series ‘Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel’ was also marketed in an unfair manner that led the audience down the wrong path that created a bit of the stir in the media. I sincerely hope Paggliat is the last of its lot and we would start seeing the film’s marketing to what it actually is.
Reviewed by Puneet Ruparel