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Mulk Review – This Compelling Courtroom Drama Offers A Fly-On-The-Wall View Of The Hindu-Muslim Situation In India

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My Verdict – A Thought-provoking film with worthy performances

3 out of 5 stars

Mulkopens with some beautiful shots of what is the world’s oldest city Benaras. The montage of the mighty Ganges, the banks of the burning Ghats that weave a maze of funeral pyres hissing, steaming and spitting orange embers into an inky evening, the metronome clang of bells, the monks offering their daily prayers, the meandering narrow lanes and bylanes of the city where the mosques and mandirs situated almost adjacent to each other speak of the communal oneness of the country and at the same time build up an underlying tension of what the film is going to be about.

Everything seems in tandem (and it actually is) when we see Muraad Ali Mohammed (Rishi Kapoor) greeting a fellow Hindu saying “Ram Ram” and the fellow greets back saying “Wallaikum assalam”)! The elders of Anubhav Sinha’s society are bounded strongly by a fellow feeling and brotherhood but are completely oblivious to what is cooking in the heads of their children. Muraad Ali is the patriarch of the family married to Tabbassum (Neena Gupta). Theirs is a joint family comprising of his younger brother Bilaal Mohammad (Manoj Pahwa), Bilaal’s wife Chhoti Tabbasum (Prachi Shah), their son Shahid Mohammed (Prateik Babbar) and daughter Aayat. There’s also the daughter in law Aarti Mohammed – an advocate by profession who has arrived from Germany after a tiff with her husband over the religion of their child to be born.

Things are pretty jocund until Shahid is outed to be a terrorist who has partaken in a bomb blast which killed 16 people. Inspector Danish Javed (Rajat Kapoor) hunts Shahid down and shoots him dead. Almost instantly the very people who they used to mingle with on a daily basis turn against them and now they have to take themselves out from the filth and not just that – they also have to prove that they love their country! They have to bear the brunt for being Muslims! The film is all about the ordeal the family goes through despite being innocent and dedicated to their nation!

Rishi Kapoor yet again delivers a hard-hitting performance as Muraad Ali, the tremble in his voice and his demeanor when he sees paparazzi hounding him everywhere or the conviction in his eyes when he declares “I donot need to prove the love for my country to anyone other than my god!” or when he reassures his brother, “Bilaal, Main Tumhe Baaizzat Reha Karke Le Jaoonga” (Bilaal, I will make sure you are acquitted with dignity).

Taapsee plays the lawyer to the T, the initial doubt in herself is quite palpable and the conviction which she amasses as the case proceeds is clear in the strong throw of her voice and the retaliations with the prosecutor played as intimidatingly as possible by Ashutosh Rana. Rajat Kapoor plays Danish Javed – the Muslim inspector with a venomous vengeance against people belonging to his own religion! A lot of layers to his character become apparent as the narrative proceeds. For instance, the audience doesn’t quite know about his religious identity until he is addressed by his full name during the court hearing! That itself is enough to surprise the viewers given the fact that he tries his best to defame and make people of his own religion grovel in the lowly dust! Kumud Mishra’s talk where needed judge is contemplative and his monologue in the end is indeed clap worthy! It is in his character that Anubhav seems a bit too preachy! But again, that goes to show that the message in the film doesn’t shy away from being in your face! Neena Gupta as the matriarch of the family delivers a flawless performance trying to hold the family together even when hope is scarce! Manoj Pahwa is excellent in his portrayal of the at times carefree and at times vulnerable Bilaal. LAst but not the least Prateik Babbar as Shahid is compelling. His voice seems to have had a baritone like never before. His at times grave and at times casual facial expressions nailed it in whatever little screen time he had. He has indeed grown leaps and bounds as an actor. We really hope to see him in a completely performance oriented role in the future. He seems to be totally geared up!

It seems that Director Anubhav Sinha has taken a lot of inspiration from the 1993 American courtroom drama Philadelphia when he utilises reverse psychology to bring out the play of sub-conscious in the characters. For instance, in the aforementioned film – Joe Miller(Denzel Washington), the advocate of the homosexual AIDS patient defendant – Andrew Beckett (Tom Hanks) constantly instigates his witnesses who are apparently in disgust of the latter by asking them “Are you gay?” only to bring out the homophobia in them. And in Mulk, we see Aarti Mohammed questioning Inspector Danish Javed whether he has been subjected to hatred and foul mouthing during his career due to his religion! (Which goes a long way in substantiating his hatred for his own religion and the need to validate that angst upon other Muslims).

 The music is a disappointment, could have been much better, the cinematography by Evan Mulligan is at times engrossing and at time overdone with the jerky effect and the editing was just okay, not that there was much scope!

All in all a film that sends a strong message to the country – when you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice!

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