Director – Anubhav Sinha
Cast – Rishi Kapoor, Ashutosh Rana, Rajat Kapoor, Taapsee Pannu
Rating – 3/5
Mulk is a film you really want to like. It is an important film in a disturbing time; a voice of reason in chaos. It has strong performances — Rishi Kapoor as Murad Ali Mohammed, a Muslim patriarch fighting for the dignity of his family; Taapsee Pannu as Aarti Malhotra, Murad’s daughter-in-law, who argues their case in court; Rajat Kapoor as an anti-terror cop.
It attacks Islamophobia by arguing against the common prejudices. It counters propaganda of hate efficiently with facts and emotion. It is also true to its context. The sets of the film don’t lie. The police stations, courtrooms and streets transport you small-town Uttar Pradesh.
But there is a crucial element of storytelling missing — surprise. In this 140-minute courtroom drama set in Varanasi, every situation seems to have been engineered to say the ‘right’ things. And there’s nothing you haven’t heard before.
Like a lot of stories burdened with a purpose, Mulk is a slow starter. It takes us to the mansion of a Muslim family in Varanasi, ahead of a party. The characters are introduced with humour and warmth in an attempt to make them endearing, but despite the acting prowess of Kapoor and Neena Gupta, who plays his wife, the script gives them and us little to work with.
Scenes like that of a Hindu neighbour who likes to try non-veg dishes when visiting, intended to be funny, fall flat and contrived.
The narrative gathers pace and flesh in the courtroom. Ashutosh Rana plays an Islamophobic public prosecutor to perfection and you’re on the edge of your seat with apprehension as he makes his opening statement. Pannu and Kapoor arguing on behalf of the family are strong too.
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.