Parents' Guide to

Pagglait

By JK Sooja, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 12+

Slow family drama finds widow looking for personal freedom.

Movie NR 2021 114 minutes
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In this patient and tender family drama, Hindu traditions and culture clash with an ever-more modernizing world, including ever-more modernizing people. Pagglait largely reads like a rebuttal to traditionalism, but subtly, as it takes great pains to respect it, even while trying to reveal it as greatly punishing for some people. A bit late to the party, this film clearly argues that women should be able to work, have jobs (and high-profile, successful careers), and not just be pawns to be played with when parents plan and strategize around who they should be married off to. While cultural differences may impact some of the experience for non-Hindu or non-Indian viewers, relatable family dramas, tensions, and spats feel genuine and universal. A little melodramatic at times, the film suffers from the occasional montage thrown in for emotionally contemplative value. Also, each time this happens, a cheesy song plays, usually with on-the-nose lyrics. For example, right after one character finds out some shocking news, the song playing afterwards immediately starts with, "Why did he have to cheat? How could he do that?" or after a character realizes that she's free, that she can now do anything, a song plays right after with the lyrics to the effect of, "Now that I'm free, what do I want to do?"

Despite these moments (which also might be culturally relative, as these montages share a lot with other Asian cinema genres, like some Korean cinema, for instance), the performances are strong and the writing is solid. Further, and a bit contradictory to the montages just mentioned, it's commendable that there's absolutely no forced or bad or over exposition in the dialogue. For non-native viewers, this positive is actually made more apparent because the cultural differences, traditions, activities, duties, behaviors, and reactions aren't explained for the uninitiated. Basically, this means that nothing is explained. For example, no character ever says something like, "You know, the Kriya, that on the 13th day of mourning, everyone gathers to pray for the deceased..." While on one hand this might be frustrating for the non-native viewer, on the other, it clearly makes for better writing and a much better film.

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