Mulk review: A film for our times

Mulk review: A film for our times

A scene from Mulk

Mulk is a film about how ancient prejudices, put to sleep through decades of mutual dependence and co-habitation, can be woken up at the whiff of an emergency. The emergency here is a terrorist attack and the prejudice is Islamophobia.

The film may remind some of one of the classics of Indian cinema, Garam Hawa (1973), a story of an elderly Muslim gentleman (Balraj Sahni) and his family caught in the communal spur of 1947.

Mulk is perhaps what would have happened had the story taken place in 2018. Terrors have grown, people have changed, 'Islamophobia' was coined, but prejudices survive.

While Mulk has its heart and ideas in the right place, the execution struggles to live up. You almost forgive the film for that because it rests on the very reliable shoulders of Rishi Kapoor and Tapsee Pannu.

Kapoor plays the role of elderly Muslim lawyer Murad Ali Mohammed, whose brother's son (Prateik Babbar) conducts a terrorist attack in Allahabad. Murad's brother (an excellent Manoj Pahwa) is framed for playing a part in the attack. Aarti (Tapsee) is Murad's Hindu daughter-in-law and their lawyer.

The terrorist attack turns almost everyone in the film inside out. People engaged in respectable professions and innocent camaraderie show true colours. The attack becomes a test of character.

The plight of the characters are shown with grit, even as the pace is nicely handled. The casting is perfect, although the characters, except for Kapoor's and Tapsee's, are not entirely fleshed out, as a result of which our emotional attachment with the others may remain at the surface.

The courtroom scenes are the most feverish in the film, but how you digest it would depend on your palate. As there are far too many evils that Sinha wants to take on, but has only one film at hand, Mulk turns into a pandora's box that contains every demon of prejudice.

And almost every one of them possesses the public prosecutor (Ashutosh Rana), who hops around obnoxiously in the courtroom saying all sorts of outrageously stupid things, giving credibility a nice, old Bollywood-stretch.

But it is also in these scenes that Mulk reveals a spine most films don't. The film here turns into a tragedy-of-errors, where prejudices are stripped, shamed and weeded out, making Mulk a film for our times.

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