‘Mulk’ takes a disturbing look at Islamophobia in India

Updated 04 August 2018

‘Mulk’ takes a disturbing look at Islamophobia in India

  • A brutal look at the kind of Islamophobia now sweeping across the world
  • Kapoor gives a fine portrayal of disappointment and sorrow

CHENNAI: Anubhav Sinha, known for fancy thrillers and at least one superhero film with Shah Rukh Khan, has in his latest outing given us an extraordinarily disturbing work, “Mulk.” A brutal look at the kind of Islamophobia now sweeping across the world, India especially in recent years, the movie explores this through the microcosm of a Muslim family living in Banaras, considered to be one of the holiest Hindu cities.
”Mulk,” though, begins on a very different note – with beautiful camaraderie between the family of Murad Ali Mohammed (Rishi Kapoor) and his essentially Hindu neighbors. This solidarity even includes an avowed vegetarian eating meat on the sly during Murad Ali’s 65th birthday bash. As the joyous celebration rolls on, there is little indication of the dark clouds hovering.
When Murad Ali’s nephew, Shahid (Prateik Babbar, son of the late Smita Patil), is found to be a terrorist, having bombed a bus and killed 16 innocent people, lines are redrawn and cracks begin to appear in what once seemed like such a friendly neighborhood.
Murad Ali is ostracized by the very people who had adored him and his family, and the cops arrest Shahid’s father, Bilal (Manoj Pahwa). An engaging courtroom drama follows, in which Aarthi (Taapsee Pannu), a lawyer married to Murad Ali’s son, takes on an utterly biased prosecution, which is out to declare the entire family guilty of the heinous crime.
Unfortunately, Pannu springs to life only during the climatic defense argument, which swings between justice and religion, between truth and prejudice. The director dumps just about everything on Kapoor’s shoulders.
Kapoor gives a fine portrayal of disappointment and sorrow – whose transformation from a romantic hero (“Bobby”) into unbelievably inspiring characters (as in “D Day,” “102 Not Out” and now “Mulk”) is what cinematic legend is all about. He helps push the well-crafted narrative with feeling: “Why must I prove my patriotism? This is my country,” is his heart-rending cry.
”Mulk” comes as a whiff of fresh air from the Bollywood stable, often criticized for being a shallow song-and-dance show.

Film Review: Hip-hop dream in ‘Gully Boy’ is music to the ears

Updated 23 February 2019

Film Review: Hip-hop dream in ‘Gully Boy’ is music to the ears

CHENNAI: Stories about slums and poverty are not easy to script. They can easily turn into vulgar celebration, as Danny Boyle’s “Slumdog Millionaire” was seen by some, notably legendary Greek filmmaker Theo Angelopoulos.

But director Zoya Akhtar (“Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara” and “Luck by Chance”) manages to steer herself clear of slipping into this trap with her latest drama, “Gully Boy,” which emerges from one of the biggest slums in the world, Dharavi, in Mumbai.

There, thousands of people living in a sprawl of huts have a bewildering variety of experiences to narrate. One story is that of Murad’s (Ranveer Singh), whose chance meeting with a rapper, Sher (Siddhant Chaturvedi), opens a magical door.

The film, inspired by real-life rappers Naezy and Divine, focusses on Murad’s ambition to become a rapper, and how he achieves it, despite his driver father’s fears and his uncle’s disdain.

In one scene, the uncle tells Murad that a chauffeur’s son can only hope to be another chauffeur, a servant in other words. A humiliated Murad takes this to heart, but quietly vows to transform his dream into reality.

His sweetheart Safeena (Alia Bhatt), who is studying to be a doctor, pushes him towards a hip-hop life.

Witten by Akhtar along with Reema Kagti, “Gully Boy” is undoubtedly the director’s career best, and Ranveer’s too. In a role that literally overshadows his earlier outings (including “Bajirao Mastani” and “Padmaavat”), he brilliantly conveys the angst and struggle of an underdog, and how his unflattering social status attracts ridicule even among those merely aspiring to be rappers.

Ranveer infuses into Murad a quiet determination that helps him cross frightening social and cultural barriers.

Safeena is also imaginatively fleshed out as a fiery woman who helps Akhtar create his own brand of rap music (some grippingly done by Naezy and Divine).

What is even more exciting is that “Gully Boy” brings rap out of the shadows and in this process the city and the slum, sensitively lensed by Jay Oza, seem to be screaming that miracles are possible even in the face of Mumbai’s painful inequities.