Grief has become one of the most sought out subjects of modern filmmakers, and especially in India, with large and dramatic families, grief has different forms and outlets. For example, in Pagglait, while Astik’s parents grieve in the most heartbreaking way only a parent can, his wife of 5 months, Sandhya (Sanya Malhotra) cannot grieve, as she believes she doesn’t even know the guy she married. Netflix’s newest creation is a stark reminder of Ramprasad Ki Tehrvi, as the films deal with the same subject, but the protagonist has different obstacles to overcome.
The film is a story of a family’s grief as they come together for 13 days to keep tehrvi. There are overbearing and prejudiced relatives, unsympathetic kids, females pitted against each other, and Sandhya, who craves gol gappas and Pepsi and scrolls to see how many comments her husband’s RIP post has. She confesses to her Muslim best friend Nazia (religion is an important part of parcel of this middle-class Indian family who doesn’t forget to showcase their casteism even in the middle of their grief) that she feels no guilt, and when she finds that her husband had actually loved another, tries to find her own awakening in a society which has largely mandated itself as the decisionmaker of a woman’s life.
The film starts strong, but somewhere along the way, the film doesn’t do what it sets out to do because Paggalait (by definition Sandhya) has no flesh, no characterization. She is just another girl from a middle-class family who did not try to find out why her husband is so quiet, and why they seldom have conversations. The emotions don’t land on the audience’s heart as they are supposed to. Sheeba Chaddha and Ashutosh Rana play the perfect grief-stricken parents who still have to worry about the housing loan and relatives hell-bent on skimming some money off them. Raghubir Yadav is another character who brings ruckus into the house, but the other characters don’t impress as much.
There are some phenomenal shots of Uttar Pradesh at the start, another mixed scene of Astik’s last journey into the Ganges while his wife is gobbling down gol gappas, and Arijit Singh’s voice, as he also dons the cap of composer for the first time. The nuances of how life goes on against the backdrop of grief are brilliantly done in the film, but it lacks the strength to achieve its goal. Paggalait could have done with a little more madness.