Slow family drama finds widow looking for personal freedom.
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A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Pagglait, which roughly means, "crazy, wild, mad, insane, maniacal" in Hindi, is an Indian family drama centered on a young and recent widow, Sandhya Giri. As members of both families descend upon her stepparent's home for the 13 day-long wake, Sandhya must deal with grief, two families full of variously peculiar people, and slowly uncovering a mystery regarding her late husband. Navigating through an intensely traditional world of family responsibility, mourning, loss, and duty versus an ever-beckoning new world without parents or family making decisions for her, Sandhya wrestles with who she wants to become. This drama is slow-burning and patient, but is also an intimate look into Indian cultural traditions and practices generally and specifically around how Indian and Hindu culture deal with death. Expect lots of crying, some touching scenes, and some humorous moments. There's no violence, language, or sexual content, except for some casual discussions about arranged marriages, the viability of certain people matched with other people, and a scene where a woman is asked if she ever slept with someone else's husband.
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What's the Story?
In PAGGLAIT, a young and new widow, Sandhya, must face family pressures, responsibilities, and requests from two families, all while trying to grieve her late husband. But she hasn't been able to cry about it, and her family members are starting to notice. What's wrong with her? Did she not love her husband? What is missing from this picture? And why is she so hungry all the time?
Is It Any Good?
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.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about death in family dramas. In Pagglait, everyone seems to be dealing with the tragedy differently, including Sandhya. Why do you think Sandhya has so much trouble grieving for her late husband?
Discuss family responsibility versus personal dreams. Would you miss out on the chance of true love just because your parents disapproved? Why or why not?
Given that arranged marriages are not the most common means to legal coupling in many other countries, how might viewers from cultures that don't have histories of traditionalized arranged marriages view this film differently to Hindus, for example? Why might acknowledging these cultural differences matter?
- On DVD or streaming: March 26, 2021
- Cast: Sanya Malhotra, Sayani Gupta, Sheeba Chaddha, Ashutosh Rana
- Director: Umesh Bist
- Studio: Netflix
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 114 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
- Last updated: February 19, 2023
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