Sanya Malhotra’s Pagglait is a strong story but lacks intensity

Umesh Bist’s Pagglait stars Sanya Malhotra, Ashutosh Rana, and Sheeba Chaddha in the lead roles. It is currently streaming on Netflix.
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Pagglait, headlining Sanya Malhotra, premiered on March 26, 2021, on Netflix. Produced by Shobha and Ekta Kapoor, Gunnet Monga, and Achin Jain, the Netflix Original released under the banners of Balaji Motion Pictures and Sikhya Entertainment. 

Pagglait is currently streaming on Netflix

Pagglait follows the 13-day journey of Sandhya, widowed within five months of being married to Astik, during which the former and the family perform the last rights. Sandhya is not a usual young widow. She does not adorn crisp white clothes, and doesn’t cry her lungs out every time a relative barges into her room.

Sandhya is not in a hurry to grieve a husband that she has hardly known, or had a real conversation with.

Revolving around the funeral and last rights, Pagglait spreads far and wide from just showcasing Sandhya struggling to mourn her dead husband. The films offer a couple of interesting characters, often using them to provide comical relief. Uncle Ghanashyam (played by Jameel Khan) is a know-it-all. He randomly quotes Shakespeare, dismisses Sandhya’s unfathomable state of mind as PTSD, and even suggests to help create a profile for Sandhya on a matrimonial platform exclusive for widows and divorcees, without seeking the woman’s consent. Relatives in the film behave like the typical ones that we usually see in every Indian family. Loud, annoying, and causing more chaos than help. 

A scene from Pagglait

Pagglait highlights many practices that are wrong with Indian society. A woman not being allowed to be with her lover because the parents do not approve of the lover; a girl being denied the basic games of childhood because she might fall and hurt herself, and no boy would be willing to marry a girl with scars; couples forced to marry before knowing each other; and a young widow being expected to not live her life after her husband’s death. 

Between struggling to mourn her husband’s death and trying to deal with the sudden transformations that have to be incorporated in her life due to the sudden demise, Sandhya discovers a picture of a woman, kept safe in between files, by her late husband. It is of Astik’s girlfriend, and his one true love. Sandhya traces Aakansha (played by Sayani Gupta), the girlfriend down, or rather she shows up at Sandhya’s doorstep. Initially bitter towards her, Sandhya interacts with Aakansha to know more about her dead husband. 

The twist in the plot is a life insurance worth Rs 50 lakh. Amidst all the chaos, an employee from an insurance company shows up seeking Sandhya’s signature for a life insurance claim that Astik left behind for his wife. Thus, begins the money-chasing game. Unsolicited advice from relatives, hurtful commentary, bribing, and even a marriage proposal -- all of this surrounds the Rs 50 lakh, that now belongs to Sandhya. 

Pagglait will constantly remind the audience of Kangana Ranaut’s Queen. A young woman left at the altar, a tragedy for women born in the Indian society. Much like Queen’s Rani, Sandhya is expected to grieve and mourn and consider her husband’s death the end of her own life. And much like Queen lead character, Pagglait’s Sandhya discovers her revelation and realises that life’s adventure awaits her, beyond the 13 days of ritual and mourning.

The last scene with Sandhya on a bus, ready to start her life afresh, will remind one of the Mohan Kanan’s Kinare from Queen. 

The last scene of Pagglait reminds one of Queen

When it comes to acting, Sanya does steal the show with her rebel-but-not-on-the-face attitude. After impeccable performances in Dangal, Thappad, Ludo, and Photograph, the actor has set the bar high for herself. But the two actors who truly stand out are Ashutosh Rana and Sheeba Chaddha, who play Astik’s parents. Ashutosh plays the bereaved but intense father, and Sheeba is the emotional mother who can’t seem to figure life without her late son. 

Director Umesh Bist does a brilliant job of building the intense atmosphere, relatable to all from middle-class Indian families. Guneet Monga’s Sikhya Entertainment is known for its strong women characters, and with Pagglait, she does maintain the consistency. However, throughout the film, the audience is compelled to feel that there’s one missing element.

Everything fits the boxes, and yet the emotions are not intense enough. 

Pagglait is Arijit Singh’s first venture as a music composer. The lyrics have been written by Neelesh Misra. Songs Dill Udd Jaa Re by Neeti Mohan and Sunny MR, and Phire Faqeera by Raja Kumari, Amrita Singh, and Arijit Singh will stay back with the audience way past the film’s runtime. 

Verdict: Pagglait can be watched once. 

Edited by Teja Lele Desai

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