Mulk: A Bold, Intense & Important Courtroom Drama
Movie Review by Trijai Nerthi (Rocheston Certified Movie Critic)
Directed by Anubhav Sinha, a film like Mulk is the need of the hour. With a family at its core center, it talks about how we have drifted apart as a country. It also showcases the communal disputes, the growing divide between people of different faiths and intolerance that seems to be taking over our country. At a time when we easily brush off facts and believe what we’re told by politicians and their media houses, Mulk makes you think. It gently but uninhibitedly lifts up the mirror to show the prejudice of people and how we stick cutthroat labels on anything or anyone we might not understand.
Settled in Varanasi, Murad Ali (Rishi Kapoor) and his family share amicable relationships with their neighbors of different faiths. But soon, Shahid Mohammad (Prateik Babbar), Murad Ali’s nephew gets painted as a terrorist involved in a bomb blast that takes many lives. As the investigation progresses, Murad Ali’s brother Bilal Mohammad (Manoj Pahwa) is taken into custody as the police suspect him to be involved in the terrorist activity as well. This situation forces him and his daughter-in-law Arti Mohammad (Taapsee Pannu) to step up and defend the innocence and patriotism of their family in court.
One of the foremost reasons why Mulk is an important film is because it addresses the manner in which religion has come to be associated with terrorism. It takes this as its core issue and proceeds to destroy this notion by proving the joint family’s innocence. For instance, My Name Is Khan takes a similar issue but envelopes it in a love story. After a point, the love story takes precedence over the issue. In Mulk though, the family is used as a vehicle to address this issue. This is why the film though dramatic is quite thought-provoking.
In certain aspects, one can observe similarities between Pink and Mulk too. In certain places, Mulk goes deeper into our system than Pink manages to. It reinstalls the importance of finding unity in diversity by talking about the religious discrimination people face just because their faith isn’t the same as that of another person. It provokes the audience and encourages them to think about the consequences that Murad Ali’s family goes through when the youngest son is accused of being a terrorist. It makes us ask questions rather than going with the popular opinion.
But unlike Pink, Mulk doesn’t believe in subtlety. It fills up the silences with alarming sounds. It is an out and out drama. But it reserves the right to be, given the bold manner in which it proceeds to point out the climate of intolerance that appears to be rising in India. Most such dramas use the courtroom as the only source of tension, but Mulk is unique in that aspect as well. In the first half, it helps us uncover the drama that never ceases in Murad Ali’s family post the accusation and the second half is dedicated to the courtroom debate where Murad and Arti strive to prove their innocence.
As Murad Ali, Rishi Kapoor delivers an effective performance that embodies the vulnerability and subtlety of his character. Through his portrayal, his character proves to be the wall that truly stands to protect his family. As Arti, Taapsee Pannu has a substantial role to play. Initially, she is reluctant but as her character’s involvement grows, so does she. Her performance in the climax is especially brilliant. Neena Gupta is a complete delight as usual. It is great to see Manoj Pahwa leave behind silly and comical roles to take up a role that is as challenging and unforgettable as Bilal. He grabs this opportunity and outdoes himself by delivering a performance that will haunt us for days to come.
Ewan Mulligan’s cinematography is always in line with the director’s vision. Be it the beautifully taken pan shots or the shots that create tremendous courtroom tension, Mulligan has visually captured the true essence of the story.
However, the music in the film is a letdown. The songs are quite forgettable and unnecessarily amps up the melodrama in the story. The background music is downright intrusive. It dictates the way we should feel throughout the film, thereby interrupting the organic rhythm of the plot.
On the whole, Mulk has a few flaws, but these little flaws can be overlooked to admire its bold, earnest and a crucial tale that is important for each of us to watch.