Anubhav Sinha directed 'Mulk' starring Rishi Kapoor and Taapsee Pannu in the lead is a courtroom drama that claims to revolve around a tragic true incident that turned the world upside down of an innocent Muslim family, who disowns his own son who conducted a bomb blast. After a lot of research over the internet, it was still unclear which family from the real life is the inspiration of this reel-life dramatized film as no documents were presented in the film's end as the credentials to leave us with conviction. Is it the 2010 Varanasi bomb blast incident which took place at Sheetla Ghat of Benaras a Hindu area adjacent to the Ganga ghat or the 2006 serial blasts that also included Sankatmochan Temple taking 28 innocent lives inclusive six tourists as well. No none of these events!
The film kickstarts quite cinematically covering some crowded places of Benaras aka Varanasi and these ghats and the people consisting of Hindus and Muslims residing together is quite a secular place of the country. It is Murad Ali Mohammad played by Rishi Kapoor who is a retired Advocate by profession and has two Hindu best friends from the remote society, a Chaubey and a Mishra who live along in the same society with a feeling of brotherhood. The family members include Murad’s wife played by Neena Gupta, Murad's brother Bilal Mohammad played by Manoj Pahwa, his wife Tabassum jr played by Prachee Shah and his sister-in-law Arti aka Taapsee Pannu who makes a surprise visit on Murad's birthday. This time Taapsee plays a Hindu married to a Muslim man who is the eldest son of the Muhammad family played by Indraneil Sengupta who just has the shortest of cameo to play. Here is the youngest son Shahid played by Prateik Babbar who simply walks on to become a terrorist out of nowhere. Spoiler alert! Bad influence is the only thing to blame. Well, Shahid leads the mission of planting the bomb in Benaras bus which takes 16 innocent lives and let's not blame Shahid he is just a distracted brainwashed little fellow and we cannot discuss much about it though.
Making the secularism quotient high Sinha makes Rajat Kapoor as the ATS head from UP a Muslim officer named Danish Javed who is a no-nonsense man and takes down Shahid shooting him off with six bullets not denying the fact that he could have arrested him. Now, the family who now knows that their son has taken 16 innocent lives and are still figuring out by saying "Ghar aja Shahid beta sab theek ho jayega" although when the dead body is granted to the family by the officials, they completely disown him.
Here on begins the interrogation and the investigation of the Muhammad family. They now live in utter shame and are disgraced by this uninviting incident. Their kindest of companions have now become kattar Hindus who throw stones at them and even do jagratas all night long in loud DJ setup blocking their way ruthlessly. But the most important part of all is the Court room where the real drama begins.We don't know which court in India allows out of context arguments especially a point of view for certain community. Realism is far away from this dramatic affair. While here we have the entire Hindu - Muslim debate on as Ashutosh Rana as the defence lawyer who outplays this character having a Hindu heart with a lot of prejudices towards a community, has enough time to explain what does the word Bilal means? what does Jihad means, picking every stereotype from the Muslim community a Hindu percieves? Welcome, you are in Bollywood. Only Kumud Mishra on the justice bench would allow that to happen.
The film clearly vandalizes one community with their presumptions and prejudices quite clear and the other is just portrayed the most innocent of all bringing on the victim angle best suited for Sinha's narrative. The film pretends to spread the brotherhood message of Hindu-Muslim Bhai Bhai, but shouts out loud that we need to clear our mindset that every Muslim is not a terrorist but dear director we do not hate our Muslim brothers. We hate Ajmal Kasab not Abdul Kalam Azaad. It was even more strange that barely a ten seconds montage of the bomb blast scenes were shown but chuck that, that's just a backstory to support the film's narrative.
Keeping all the criticism aside, two standout performances were quite pleasing in this artificial courtroom drama. Rishi Kapoor plays Muhammad Murad with solid assurance and trust to the character he owes. Taapsee who has quite a lot un-necessary dialogues in her bucket play as usual and we do not sense versatility in the 31-year old. Although fluency and emotional expressions were spot on. Ashutosh Rana as the devil in the defence does his job farely, playing the antagonist with such an ease.
Overall, Mulk is a movie made with the vested interest by breaking the stereotype that the clever director himself creates in this film. Why not? Hindu Muslim is such a hot topic to sell few months before the 2019 elections. Watch this unreal Courtroom drama for the sake of noteworthy performances, that's it. As the film is no-where closer to reality as it pretends to be.
Sinha also missed out to show some tourists in the opening scene as Benaras is a tourist driven place as well. The film is cinematically rich and director of photography Ewan Mulligan captures some stunning sequences in the busiest city of India. Dialogues of this film are quite persuasive and are penned with a lot of care. The courtroom actually looks dialoguebaazi adda and not a place for legal hearing.
Go for it only if you look for the performances and not a cliche storyline.