It’s a traditional Uttar Pradesh small town household and a joint family. Sandhya Giri (Sanya Malhotra) is widowed five months into marriage to Astik (never shown), and elaborate preparations are being made for the last rites and the 13th day. Other family members have been invited, and Astik’s younger brother Alok (Chetan Giri) given the responsibility of his brother’s ashes that involves do’s and don’ts, including sleeping on the floor and abstinence from alcohol.
In the over-conservative and thus hypocritical setup, while Sandhya is told to search her husband’s section in the cupboard (we come to know that they hardly communicated, explaining Sandhya’s absence of normal grief) for some key bank documents, she comes across the photo, carefully preserved, of a young woman (Sayani Gupta), whom she comes to know, was his past love and a college sweetheart-turned-office colleague.
Sandhya is angry, and that is not mitigated even when she comes to know that her late husband has made her the sole beneficiary of a five million insurance policy.
What happens next is natural: Astik’s colleagues come to offer condolences, and among them is the girl Aakansha, whom Sandhya accosts immediately. The place where they stay is under loan and Astik’s retired father Shivendra Giri has financial problems. The policy turns the family members (other than Shivendra) into potential gold-diggers, who all want Sandhya to remarry an ineligible bachelor within the family for obvious reasons.
Sandhya’s bestie, Nazia (Shruti Sharma) is another visitor, and the religious Giris do not like her eating from normal plates and would prefer she stay away from the actual rituals as she is a Muslim. Sandhya’s interaction with Aakansha and her own parents and in-laws alters her perspective of life and makes her take crucial decisions.
The one point where the film scores high is the perfect atmosphere built up by the director and writer of the small-town “normal” family ambience with all its internal squabbles, politics, idiosyncrasies and hypocrisies. These make the film stand tall with its humor level subterranean and subtle, and though the pace flags here and there, at 115 minutes, “Pagglait” is a good watch.
Characters such as the senile grandma (Saroj Singh), the wannabe restaurant owner (Nakul Roshan Sahdev), the helpful neighbor Parchun (Aasif Khan), the ‘Net-savvy bro-in-law Ghanshyam (Jameel Khan), among others, all add up spice to the interesting narrative. A special note must be made of Ashutosh Rana as the bereaved yet solidly honest and intense father—Rana steals the show with his quiet, unflappable integrity. Of course, that is among the character artistes, where even Shruti Sharma makes a mark as the often hassled Nazia, while Sayani Gupta is just alright as Aakansha.
The game, set and match belongs to the increasingly bankable Sanya Malhotra as Sandhya—here is a talent that outclassed her co-star right in her debut film “Dangal,” and has shown her resolute fire to shine in every (varied) role, whether it was “Badhaai Ho,” “Patakha,” “Shakuntala Devi” or “Ludo” and even the obscure “Photograph.” She is pitch-perfect in all the shades she shows of Sandhya—the needlessly harangued and the angry widow, the fun-loving girl, the confident person aware of her strengths and the woman of self-conviction who does what she feels strongly is right.
For her alone, “Pagglait” (colloquial for someone quite crazy in local parlance) is a good watch. But there are other virtues as well. And Sikhya Entertainment has redeemed its reputation with this worthwhile enterprise.
Produced by: Shobha Kapoor. Ekta Kapoor, Guneet Monga & Achin Jain
Written & Directed by: Umesh Bisht
Music: Arijit Singh
Starring: Sanya Malhotra, Ashutosh Rana, Raghubir Yadav, Sheeba Chaddha, Chetan Sharma, Natasha Rastogi, Bhupesh Pandya, Sayani Gupta, Raghubir Yadav, Aasif Khan, Yamini Singh, Jameel Khan, Rajesh Tailang, Ananya Khare, Meghna Malik, Shruti Sharma, Nakul Roshan Sahdev, Sachin Chaudhary, Saroj Singh & others