Mulk: This battle is about ‘fact’ vs ‘truth’
Direction & Production: Anubhav Sinha Screenplay: Anubhav Sinha Cast: Rishi Kapoor, Tapsee Pannu, Prateik Babbar, Ashutosh Rana, Manoj Pahwa, Neena Gupta, Prachi Shah, Vartika Singh, Rajat Kapoor, Kumud Mishra Cinematography: Ewan Mulligan Editing: Ballu Saluja Music: Mangesh Dhadke
Hindi / Drama / 140 Mins / India / 2018
For a film which had the potential and possibly the vision of examining the very sensitive issue of ‘us’ and ‘them’ (read Hindus and Muslims) in a balanced manner, Anubhav Sinha’s Mulk tries but feebly. It does, however, make a very powerful case for those who want to believe in its argument. Mulk’s simplistic tenor mouths platitudes against the minority before demolishing the same by portraying a terrorist accused’s family as victim. But first a little background.
Mulk revolves around the story of a young man Shahid (Prateik Babbar) who has gone astray to become a terrorist. He successfully executes a bomb blast killing several. After he is gunned down trying to escape the police net, his father Bilal Mohammad (Manoj Pahwa in a great performance of a simpleton) is taken into custody for questioning. Even as the family tries to come to terms with the loss of a son, they rally to save the father now.
Right in the beginning Mulk takes care of the troublesome part by admitting that the son is a terrorist. Next, it absolves the family for his misdeeds since it was completely ignorant of what he had been upto. So while there is evidence to suggest that he crossed the line over a period of time and operated from home along with a cousin, it is also systematically proved that the family remained unaware of the shift in stance and should not be victimised – they even refuse to claim his body after post-mortem.
Since Sinha wants to drive home the point that Muslims are ‘victims of prejudice’ in this country, his script is split right down the middle – with the prejudiced characters (read Rajat Kapoor as Investigating Officer Danish Javed); prosecution lawyer Santosh Anand (Ashutosh Rana) and Choubeyji as Shahid’s whistleblower neighbor on one side, and Murad Ali Mohammad (Rishi Kapoor in an exemplary performance as head of the family) defence lawyer and family bahu Arati Mohammad (Tapsee Pannu) and Bilal Mohammad (Pahwa) on the other. Kumud Mishra in a special appearance as the judge is the voice of sanity with bits of advice for each one at appropriate moments. Why for instance, is Tapsee’s character Arati a Hindu and not a Muslim? Would a Muslim defending another not lend weight to her character? Or why does Rana’s character Santosh Anand speak only chaste Hindi while the rest make their choices between Hindustani and English? What is the director trying to convey?