Mulk

wogma rating: Beg or borrow, but do watch (?)

quick review:

An extremely gripping courtroom drama despite the standard and more or less predictable ups-downs-climax. Helped by rock-solid writing and performances.

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Director: Anubhav Sinha
Running time: 140 minutes
Genres: Social
More Movie Info

Could this story have been told better? I am sure it can be. Has anyone tried it with such conviction? I am not too sure of that. Films that have walked the tightrope of communcal disharmony, have tried very hard to not accuse one side and be balanced. That balance seems very natural in Mulk.

When you can do this, why did we have to watch Cash?

In some sense, Mulk is a living room conversation that has been set into a story. The courtroom arguments play out exactly like they would between people defending Muslims and those who are afraid because they don’t know which Muslim is a “good” one and which one is not and finds it easier to brand them all a broad stroke of black. The gripping bit is that there is a lot more at stake here.

A normal family, one which could have been yours or mine, with a cute old couple, brothers who don’t get along, loving sisters-in-law, and so on – is being branded as terrorists. All of them. Because one of the members had turned terrorist. This bit, that the arresting cop and the prosecutors were completely convinced that the entire family is involved felt exaggerated, but then again, real life in such situations is often much stranger than fiction. Mulk is all about the courtroom drama that follows.

From Whatsapp forwards to deep-seated, sub-conscious prejudice, Mulk weaves many a theme together. What it doesn’t do well, doesn’t jar as it usually does. For instance, from the beginning every side character is introduced with a purpose and they all fulfill their roles predictably when the time comes. But, it doesn’t feel contrived. Similarly, every character eventually becomes representative of the category of people they come from – pro-muslim muslims and non-muslim, anti-muslim muslims and non-muslim, and so on. When each character is detailed relatively well, it would have been nice to have a story that was driven by these characters rather than the issue at hand. But, I guess the subject is such that representation is the only way to go.

The tone of the film gives away how the film is going to end. And yet, it is a gripping set of arguments and counter-arguments. Even though the prosecutor’s side is a coloured a shade of grey too dark, making it a very close white and black contest. In that sense, the only real well-balanced grey character is the judge (Kumud Mishra). You really don’t know which way he can sway.

Kumud Mishra’s deadpan act feels so real that the preachy monologue he has for us, doesn’t even feel like one. This tact in writing really sets the film apart from the other films in this genre. Not everything in the writing is as subtle, it is a courtroom film after all. But, the expected crescendo comes at just the right time and is emoted wonderfully by Tapsee Pannu. While we have come to expect reliable performances by her, Rajat Kapoor and Rishi Kapoor, the two men still manage to surprise, in a way.

Rajat Kapoor’s relatively mute but convinced character had an eerie resemblance to people from real life people we come across. I especially liked the subtlety in the scenes he has with Tapsee Pannu. Rishi Kapoor takes full advantage of the camera’s close eye on him. The scenes right after the terrorist act make you believe that this is exactly how stumped you will be if you found out one of the people lived with for years was a terrorist. How does one react when one is caught completely off-guard by life?

The tone of the film gives away how the film is going to end. And yet, it is a gripping set of arguments and counter-arguments.

Even so, the best actor in the film would easily be Manoj Pahwa. I caught myself asking these questions more than once, “Why have we never seen him in this mode earlier? In a relatively mainstream film, anyway. When the man can do this, why does he take up those loud characters?”

And I have similar questions about the writer-director. When you can do this, why did we have to watch Cash? Certainly budget cannot be the reason. Anyway, if this is a sign of things to come, we can let bygones be bygones. When the audience is willing to ignore the flaws, when a film is able to engage despite being predictable, it is a film that had done the job it set out to do.

- meeta, a part of the audience

27 reviewers(?) - 18 yays 9 so-so 0 nays

Warning: clicking on "full review" will take you to an external website that could contain spoilers.

Thumbs up, by Bobby Sing, Bobby Talks Cinema.com : ...So if possible do watch MULK taking the young ones along, as they got to learn the right things at the right time…….. plus it’s not often when you get to witness a Hindi film displaying a spine, made without caring about the returns giving a powerful social message. ... full review

Thumbs up, Bollywood Hungama : ...On the whole, MULK is a hard hitting and exhilarating saga that effectively talks about some of the burning issues of our country. At the box office, it has the potential to grow thanks to the positive word of mouth and thereby emerge as the dark horse of the year! Recommended! ... full review

Thumbs up, by Deepa Gahlot, cinemaah : ...Rishi Kapoor towers over the film with a performance that is intensely felt; Manoj Pahwa’s Bilal gets the sympathy because his suffering is there to see, but Murad Ali’s anguish is that of a man whose belief systems are being ripped apart and he does not know whether to hold on or let go. It is very tough part, and Kapoor deserves all the awards there are! ... full review

Thumbs up, by SUPARNA SHARMA, Deccan Chronicle : ...And as I walked away from Mulk, marvelling at its crackling drama, high emotional quotient, its gritty appeal, whistle-worthy dialogues and politics, after a long time I doffed my hat to Bollywood. ... full review

Thumbs up, by Hiren Kotwani, DNA : ...Mulk is worth a watch because it focuses on some pivotal issues of the day. ... full review

Thumbs up, by Devesh Sharma, Filmfare : ...At the start of the review, it is stated that the film asks some unpleasant questions. But the most important question it asks is -- what's the definition of terrorism? Well, you'll be surprised at the answer... ... full review

Thumbs up, by Devansh Sharma, FirstPost : ...The courtroom scenes also hammer home the larger point that terrorism is not only Islamic but of various other forms. However, when viewed through a logical prism and not one misted by any colour (green or saffron), Mulk stands out an eye-opener for those who wish to see the world untainted. ... full review

Thumbs up, Free Press Journal : ...I am not surprised that Evan Mulligan’s camera has captured the splintered cultural conundrum of Varanasi like never before. Mulk is a work that won’t settle for the status quo. It forces us to think and reconsider our value system at a time when cows are valued more than human lives. Anubhav Sinha prefers to say “boo” instead of “moo”. ... full review

Thumbs up, by R.M. Vijayakar, India West : ...“Mulk” is a sensitively told sensitizing film that should strike the right note in people with the right sensibilities.... full review

Thumbs up, by Shubhra Gupta, indian express : ...Any film that does not demonize, that talks of peace and brotherhood, in these dark, cynical times, is to be lauded. Mulk is Anubhav Sinha’s best film, and it concerns us all. It makes me want to cheer. Out loud. ... full review

Thumbs up, by Anita Iyer, khaleejtimes : ...'Mulk' is a fearless, courageous film and deserves to be watched. ... full review

Thumbs up, by Umesh Punwani, koimoi : ...All said and done, Mulk is one such film that will hold your guts till the end. It’ll pinch your soul hard & question your humanity. Stellar performances, mind-blowing climax & superlative narration – this is so far, the best movie of 2018. ... full review

Thumbs up, by Mayank Shekhar, MiD DAY : ...Mulk is, foremost, a 'court-room' drama. As per popular Bollywood convention, this means the second half of the movie is entirely placed in a massive, fancy adalat, with two feisty, cheeky lawyers (Ashutosh Rana, Tapsee Pannu; both expectedly crackling), going at each other, unmindful of standard legalese, let alone subtleties of any sort. ... full review

Thumbs up, by Jaidev Hemmady, Movie Talkies : ...Do yourself a favour this weekend and go watch ‘Mulk’...... full review

Thumbs up, by Saibal Chatterjee, NDTV : ...Go watch Mulk for its stout-hearted espousal of sanity. It isn't often that Bollywood shows such spine.... full review

Thumbs up, by Nandini Ramnath, Scroll.in : ...The repeated use of uncomfortable close-ups is jarring, but at least two of the faces benefit from the device. One is Manoj Pahwa, who marvelously conveys Bilal’s gradual and painful crumbling. The relationship between Bilal and his elder brother is one of Mulk’s most moving aspects. ... full review

Thumbs up, by Namrata Joshi, The Hindu : ...He has a stellar cast to weave a compelling social fabric from. Rishi Kapoor and Taapsee Pannu walk away with the most dramatic moments but Manoj Pahwa as Ali Mohammed’s wronged brother Bilal is heartbreaking and Kumud Mishra as the judge gets to speak some compelling common sense about the Constitution and elections that we could well pay heed to. ... full review

Thumbs up, by Lasyapriya Sundaram, Times of India : ...Shot in the bylanes of small town India, the film captures the milieu it is set in aptly. The music is the weakest link and the soaring and melodramatic background score in some portions is distracting. Mulk focusses on some hard-hitting and burning issues, while also highlighting the crucial role that the media and various other channels of information play in disseminating the right news and facts to its citizens. It also brings to fore the other faces of terrorism which often gets brushed under the carpet. ... full review

So-So, by Joyjeet Das, Catch News : ...So, well tried Anubhav Sinha and all the best. But you need to stretch some more to touch the bar that is being set higher with time. ... full review

So-So, by Rahul Desai, Film Companion : ...Mulk, though, is a reminder that we are all part of that courtroom. Being surprised is a condescending emotion – and inherently a product of our own preconceived notions. It is also a reminder that the right film in this country is often better than a good one. Raazi was an example, but it was perhaps Meghna Gulzar’s Talvar that had already conditioned us expect a skillful take on the rift between mulk and mazhab. In contrast, I came out of Sinha’s film admittedly humbled, and of the belief that verdicts are best delivered after the closing statements. ... full review

So-So, by Johnson Thomas, Free Press Journal : ...‘Mulk’ may not follow all the rules of the game, but it does manage to make its contrivances look virtuous enough to curry favour. Ewan Mulligan’s camerawork is the most intriguing. The performers – from the lead to the cameos and bit parts, should also be complimented for making this exercise imminently believable and gratifying! ... full review

So-So, by Dipanjan Sinha, Hindustan Times : ...This film takes an important step in defining terrorism and underlining the differences between a suspect and a criminal. It succeeds in intent and purpose, but sadly fails when it comes to storytelling. ... full review

So-So, by Suhani Singh, india today : ...Only if Sinha could exercise some restraint and be judicious with his script, Mulk's impact could be stronger.... full review

So-So, by Kunal Guha, Mumbai Mirror : ...That said, the film makes a desperate attempt to convey that members of a certain community are secular nationalists. There’s a scene where we see Murad praising the Indian cricket team, and another where he’s admonishes members of a mosque about bursting crackers when Pakistan wins a match. But the worst is the final shot: we see a young boy scampering through a busy lane wearing a Dhoni jersey and a taqiya (skull cap).... full review

So-So, by Shantanu David, News18.com : ...Finally, Mulk isn’t original cinema, it’s not even its own film, but it’s a much needed reminder and lesson that we live in a secular nation, something that we always strive for.​ ... full review

So-So, by Sreehari Nair, Rediff : ...This audience, I realised, was fighting its own Us Vs Them battle. ... full review

So-So, by SHILPA JAMKHANDIKAR, Reuters : ...For what it’s worth, Sinha’s cast, especially Kapoor and Pannu, bring in the restraint that is missing in the script. The honesty in their performances manifest on screen. “Mulk” does have its flaws, but you cannot fault the intention. ... full review

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This page has additional observations, other than the ones noted in the main review.

Parental Guidance:

  • Violence: A bomb blast scene, a stone-throwing scene
  • Language: Clean
  • Nudity & Sexual content: None
  • Concept: A courtroom drama about a family accused of encouraging a terrorist in their family
  • General Look and Feel: Grim, serious, real.

Detailed Ratings (out of 5):

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Lead Actors:
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Comments (4)

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Fan

Let's look at the track record of the director. Cash, Dus, Ra.One, Tum Bin. There is a reason why these are all commercial duds thoroughly rejected by the paying public. And there is a message in that track record. Message is: stay away.

@Fan oh come on! You are really equating Mulk with Cash?

Fan

I am simply citing the track record of the director.

The track record of someone who has made Cash, Dus, Ra.One does not entice you much to look forward to his next. :-)

@Fan that is true! I would suggest, give this one a shot. You just might be surprised.

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