What is it to be a Muslim in India today? What is the definition of terrorism? Mulk director and writer Anubhav Sinha deftly depicts the prejudice, the hate, the sheer blindness and mob-mentality towards people of a particular religion with great sensitivity, balance and a compassionate heart.
Mulk is the most important film in Hindi cinema this year. In the age of murderous mob lynchings, the beef ban and WhatsApp induced killings, Mulk touched me in its deep honesty. It is already our Boom Box Bollywood/Hindi Film of the Year 2018.
A quietly content Varanasi Muslim joint family is shattered when a young family member commits a terrorist act. The entire family is harassed and elderly members arrested, leading to tragic events. The Hindu daughter-in-law of the house stands up to defend the family in court. No emotion is overtly dramatised or stretched. Everything is conveyed in a matter-of-fact manner, but for some minutes of lip-synced songs.
Taapsee Pannu is especially impressive as Aarti Mohammed. She is turning out to be the actress of the year. Rishi Kapoor as the family elder Murad Ali Mohammed emits strength and a rooted wise, outspoken outlook. Ashutosh Rana as the prosecution lawyer is good too.
Manoj Pahwa as Murad's younger brother Bilaal Ali Mohammed affected me the most. His helplessness, glasslike vulnerability and ice-thin fragility are deeply touching.
The second half is not about, "Here is another court scene." These are things said with great clarity and feeling here. I left the theatre speechless and was stunned for quite some time. The bigger picture, the larger purpose, most of us fail to see that far.
I would like to repeat: Mulk is the most important film in Indian cinema this year. In these repressive times, Mulk is an oil lamp aflame and bright in a sea of darkness.