While the first half is a family drama, the second is populated by intense courtroom scenes. In terms of battling perception, a parallel can be drawn between Mulk and Anirudha Roy Choudhary's 2016 legal drama Pink. What Pink was for feminism, Mulk is for terrorism. Mulk delves deeper on the Indian context and how terrorism has come to be associated with religion. While the first half, a rather endless assault of appetisers, takes too long to serve the main course, a sumptuous second half makes up for the lost appetite. However, unlike Pink, Mulk is not very fond of silences. Mangesh Dhakde's soaring background music never allows the isolation that the Muslim family faces to permeate the audience.
Mulk is a film you really want to like. It is an important film in a disturbing time; a voice of reason in chaos. It has strong performances — Rishi Kapoor as Murad Ali Mohammed, a Muslim patriarch fighting for the dignity of his family; Taapsee Pannu as Aarti Malhotra, Murad’s daughter-in-law, who argues their case in court; Rajat Kapoor as an anti-terror cop. It attacks Islamophobia by arguing against the common prejudices. It counters propaganda of hate efficiently with facts and emotion. It is also true to its context. The sets of the film don’t lie. The police stations, courtrooms and streets transport you small-town Uttar Pradesh. But there is a crucial element of storytelling missing — surprise. In this 140-minute courtroom drama set in Varanasi, every situation seems to have been engineered to say the ‘right’ things. And there’s nothing you haven’t heard before. This film takes an important step in defining terrorism and underlining the differences between a suspect and a criminal. It succeeds in intent and purpose, but sadly fails when it comes to storytelling.
From Rishi Kapoor’s intense presence, all-heart Taapsee, wicked-yet-entertaining Ashutosh Rana to Manoj Pahwa – the guy who has exhaled every bit of performer in him – Mulk is only about what’s good. Mulk is one such film that will hold your guts till the end. It’ll pinch your soul hard & question your humanity. Stellar performances, mind-blowing climax & superlative narration – this is so far, the best movie of 2018.
Mulk is rational and clear-minded in its stance on Islamophobia. For once, Sinha doesn’t have to ‘construct’ a series of actions – he uses words, dialogues, monologues and speeches to deconstruct the relationship between civilization and religion. Taapsee Pannu, doubling up as the family’s defense lawyer, is the hero – she goes from mute observer to raging whistleblower, speaking and snarling and crusading for an entire generation of liberal armchair activists.
Mulk articulates the prejudice of those that are quick to tar an entire community with the same brush for the violent actions of a few, but see no wrong in the systemic violence - political, social and economic - that is perpetrated day in and day out on those that are condemned to the fringes of a counterfeit development story designed to serve narrow interests. Mulk is an important film because it reflects the concerns of those that hold humanity dear and abhor binaries fuelled by WhatsApp-driven fear-mongering. Go watch Mulk for its stout-hearted espousal of sanity. It isn't often that Bollywood shows such spine.