After the smoking, drinking, screwing women in Bombay Begums who couldn’t seem to move beyond this limited narrative of liberation, Sandhya Giri of Pagglait was a wonderful change. Completely Indian, gol gappe Indian, unruly curly plaited hair, unglamorous, even naive, without the urge to jump into bed with the many horny men who surround her during the 13 days of the funeral of her short lived marriage to Astik, she is refreshingly normal. It’s good to know a woman is not centred in her vagina.
It’s a typical story of middle class households, arranged loveless marriages, duty-bound lives, gossiping relatives, funeral and religious shenanigans, absurd hypocrisies, money politics, and a sort of cocooned and suffocating patriarchy that corrodes.
In this the newly widowed Sandhya finds herself.
Beautifully told, the film unfolds, layer by layer, her journey to true liberation that all the wannabe Bhatt clan strive so hard to create in their films of needy, weepy perfectly made up westernised women. I loved the way Sandhya’s English education is brought in, not by way of her speaking with an accent, but in the way she rewords the obituary. Subtle and powerful.
Liberation is not in your clothes, or your aping men in their unhealthy habits, and certainly not in random and repetitive sex. It won’t liberate you.
Liberation is in self respect. It must come from within where you face your demons, confront your emotions honestly, and reach insights. It is in using your strengths, it is in the ability to be fair and generous; but also in being shrewd enough in not getting bulldozed even by one’s own mother; standing by one’s Muslim friend partaking in a Hindu upper caste funeral, acknowledging truths that are unpleasant, and more importantly in moving towards independence that is male free, yet not in seeking domineering power over them either.
Pagglait has all this.