Rishi Kapoor, Taapsee Pannu, Rajat Kapoor
In the 2 hours 25 minutes that you sit in the theatre watching this film, you cannot help but think about the many times we as Indians have questioned secularism. Are we truly secular? Do we really accept our muslim brothers as a part of us? Will they always have to give a proof of their patriotism? There are many glaring questions that come to mind, but the biggest question remains will director, Anubhav Sinha manage to give us the answers?
Sinha pitches the film around the walls of Murad Ali Mohammad (Rishi Kapoor)’s house. It is a typical joint family, living in the city of Varanasi. They are a respected family and are staying comfortably and at peace with their hindu neighbours. There is a feeling of calmness and fun around them. The newest member of their family is Aarti (Taapsee Pannu) who has married into the family and has just returned from London to meet her in-laws. Everything is good till Shahid (Prateik Babbar), Murad’s nephew gets engaged in some kind of terrorist group and is killed in an encounter. The family is not given a moment to mourn the death of Shahid, because they are suddenly surrounded by accusations of terrorism.
The once respectable family suddenly is without friends and has way too many fingers pointing at them, for anyone to live in peace. As the investigations proceed, the police arrest Murad and his brother Bilal (Manoj Pahwa) and the only recourse available is to fight back. But as Taapsee’s character asks, how can anyone distinguish a peace-loving bearded muslim, from a bearded terrorist?
The movie moves out of the walls of Murad Ali Mohammad’s house to the courtroom where more characters get added. While there are the likes of lawyer, Santosh Anand (Ashutosh Rana) and Danish Jadhav (Rajat Kapoor) who try their level best to bring the family down, there is Taapsee’s silent persistence that keeps warring with their narrow-minded hatred. There is a lot of hindus against muslims, and very typical situations that Anubhav has opted to use, which makes the film heavy yet redundant.
There are many questions that are asked in the course of the film and each have been answered with utmost honesty but there is a very obvious subtext, which makes the film less than brilliant. The content of the film is such that many scenes are emotionally potent for any Indian viewer. However, the very same thing might turn out to be the downfall of the film. Because it is overwhelmed with sentimentality. Mulk speaks rather openly about a lot of religious, political and democratic challenges we face as a nation, thus there is only a certain segment of the viewers for which the film will appeal.
The casting of the film is yet another factor which takes away from the impact of the film. Having Ashutosh Rana as the Hindu adversary, and Prateik Babbar walking the line between good and bad, is too obvious a choice for the casting directors to create an impact. Had both been played by actors with lesser known personalities, the resonance of their existence would have echoed louder. While Rishi Kapoor has off-late turned into a chameleon getting into the skin of every character he plays with effortless ease, Taapsee Pannu is yet again playing this strong woman she always plays. Had Anubhav Sinha made a few risky choices in casting and treatment of the film, MULK would have been a path breaking film. Right now, it is a nice sentimental watch.