Mumbai, 02 Aug 2018 11:47 IST
The film is not preachy, but raises a pertinent question, especially in the current political environment. It doesn’t ask you to pick a side, but wants you to introspect.
Does terrorism have a face? Terror attacks in the name of religion also harms those belonging to that religion and living peaceful lives. Today, a man with a beard and a white skullcap is looked at with suspicion. This fear has given rise to stereotypes and prejudices.
Director Anubhav Sinha addresses this phenomenon that not only haunts a community, but also polarises the nation or the Mulk.
Murad Ali Mohammed [Rishi Kapoor] is a respected lawyer in Varanasi and also runs a small shop that sells homoeopathy medicines. He is traditional but not conservative, and two of his best pals are Hindus. One of his daughters-in-law is Aarti (Taapsee Pannu), a Hindu, who is also a lawyer. While he sports a beard, his brother Bilaal (Manoj Pahwa) doesn't. The brothers have their differences but the Mohammeds still live happily under one roof.
One morning their world comes apart as an investigation of a terror attack in Allahabad leads authorities to their doorstep.
The family is accused of terrorism and an ailing Bilaal is tried for planning the attack that killed 10 people, with his son, Shahid (Prateik Babbar). Murad Ali defends his brother in court, but is later left to seek legal help himself after the public prosecutor Santosh Yadav (Ashutosh Rana) levels serious allegations against him too.
Justice is served on the basis of proof and scientific evidence, but when it comes to terror charges, one's religion and loyalty to the nation is questioned. With no clear evidence to nail down Bilaal or Murad Ali, Santosh tries to build his arguments on religious prejudices. He claims the Mohammeds belong to a self-centred community that is disloyal to its nation, and which has been populating the country to spread its religion.
Is Yadav Islamophobic? Perhaps yes, but he is just one of the many millions of Indians, who have been raised with these notions.
One misguided person pulls a trigger or detonates a bomb killing innocents. Yes, innocent lives are lost, but what’s more terrifying is how we, as a society, react to it. Do we label the family of the accused as anti-nationals? Should the society sever ties with the family of the accused even if they had nothing to do with the crime?
Sinha’s tough cop Danish Javed (Rajat Kapoor) thinks people from his community are shaming it by indulging in acts of terror. He believes that by wiping out the bad sheep from the flock, he can redeem his religion. But then again, isn’t Javed’s action also a manifestation of prejudice against his own?
When Aarti corners Javed in court, the man defines a terrorist as “a person who uses unlawful violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims”. Aarti then points out that there was no mention of the word 'religion' and asks why people attribute terrorism to one particular religion.
Couple of men from Murad Ali’s community offer to protect him and hail Shahid’s act of terror as martyrdom, but the wise Murad Ali shuns these divisive evil minds. These men are fighting back the popular prejudice against their community with a prejudice of their own — this nation will never respect them.
The film is also a reminder to the indocrinated lot that unleash terror in the name of religion may land you in jannat (heaven), but you don't live to see the hell that you leave behind for your innocent family members.
Mulk is not just a film about a terror attack and a family facing trial, but it exposes the many preconceived notions we have been carrying on for decades.
In the climax, Aarti questions the people watching the court proceedings, “Did you ask yourself why were you laughing when Santosh repeatedly mocked [Murad] Ali Mohammed with his insensitive comments?" This question that critiques the public's herd mentality is met with complete silence in court.
Sinha presents a nearly flawless first half, but goes a little overboard with the drama in the second half. But then again, Indian audiences tend to give a thumbs-up to courtroom dramas. While we don’t get to see a Sunny Deol reprimanding the court officials themselves, we do witness some emotionally charged moments in films like the Jolly LLB franchise. Thankfully, Mulk stays clear of such melodrama.
This is not the first time that Rishi Kapoor has played a Muslim character. He was Akbar in Manmohan Desai’s Amar Akbar Anthony (1977), and the evil pimp Raul Lala in Agneepath (2012). Despite the chaos around, Murad Ali maintains a calm demeanour. Rishi Kapoor has delivered a measured performance.
For most part of the film, we see a restrained Taapsee Pannu, but the actress gets into the flow by end of the film. Pannu ups the intensity when it matters the most. Two years ago, we saw her as a frightened victim battling in court to protect her honour in Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury’s Pink (2016). In Mulk, Pannu shows no fear while donning the lawyer’s cape. Also, her relationship with the Mohammed family comments on the idea of 'love jihad'.
Rajat Kapoor seldom disappoints you and he shows his prowess here with yet another intense performance. Kumudh Mishra, who plays justice Harish Madhok, partly reminds you of justice Sunderlal Tripathi (Saurabh Shukla) from the Jolly LLB franchise. Minus the food cravings, of course. Like Sunderlal Tripathi, Madhok has a dry sense of humour and is opinionated, but doesn't let it influence his judgment. Television actress Prachi Shah, who plays Bilaal’s wife Tabassum, impresses in her limited but important role.
However, the one man who chips in with an outstanding performance is Manoj Pahwa. Largely hailed for his comic roles, Pahwa moves you with his intense and emotional act in Mulk. Credit should go to Sinha and the casting director for seeing Bilaal in Pahwa.
Mulk is not preachy, but raises a pertinent question, especially in the current political environment. It doesn’t ask you to pick a side, but wants you to introspect.
Watch the trailer of the film below:
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