Cast: Rishi Kapoor, Tapsee Pannu, Neena Gupta, Manoj Pahwa, Prachi Shah Pandya, Rajat Kapoor, Prateik Babbar, Ashutosh Rana
Director: Anubhav Sinha
Rating: * * *
At a time when the social fabric of the Nation is being assailed with intolerance, political malfeasance and hate crimes torpedoed largely against a particular community comes ‘Mulk’ – Anubhav Sinha’s unique effort to delink all forms of terrorism from religion, community and sect.
The narrative might follow the regular formula of showing two peaceful communities co-existing lovingly and peacefully for decades, suddenly being thrust into confrontationist mode because of a home-grown, misled, jihadi, Shahid (Prateik Babbar) bringing about mass scale death and destruction, but the power here entirely lies in the deconstruction of the accusations and name-calling and the underlying punctuations that take the argument for a one Nation, one people, forward.
In trying to build on a bigger picture to promote communal harmony, the writer/director fails to flesh out the littler, meatier bits and pieces in the plot – thus leading to a largely hollow, preachy endplay. The script, though, does enough to get you rooting for the hapless Mohammed (Rishi Kapoor), (Neena Gupta, Manoj Pahwa, Prachi Shah Pandya, Tapsee Pannu, Indraneil Sen Gupta) family grappling with being victimised for a crime they had no inkling about.
The evidence against Bilal (Manoj Pahwa) and Murad (Rishi Kapoor) are never corroborated, and much of the high decibel hammering in the courtroom is speculative and entirely circumstantial. We never learn how Chief Investigating Officer from the Anti-Terrorist squad, Danesh (Rajat Kapoor), himself a Muslim, buoyed by an irrational rage to root out all the bad apples from his community, collects the crucial incriminating evidence other than by using coercion and third-degree tricks on Bilal.
While the protracted courtroom theatrics initiated by Public Prosecutor Santosh Anand (Ashutosh Rana) get more toxic, driven by a demonic appeal to faux Nationalism, the arguments against, by Defence lawyer Arti (Tapsee Pannu) have a raw emotive and empathetic appeal, while promoting humanism and nation-building as a panacea. Of course, all that is largely pyrrhic, because this is not how a real courtroom functions.
Bollywood filmmakers (and Anubhav Sinha is no exception) tend to steamroll over legal procedure and manipulate the audience in order to win them over to an endgame that is emotionally satisfying and that part at least has been achieved quite successfully.
‘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!