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'Ek mulk kaagaz pe naksho ki lakeeron se nahin batataa, mulk batataa hain rang se, bhasha se, dharam se, zaat se," says Taapee Pannu's Aarti Mohammad during an intense courtroom scene in Mulk, and you almost find yourself nodding in agreement. In his latest outing, director Anubhav Sinha sets out to remind people that humanity is not blinded by religion.
Mulk begins with a quick glimpse into the milieu of Benaras, post which Anubhav Sinha introduces us to his characters. Murad Ali Mohammed (Rishi Kapoor) is a well-respected lawyer who has Hindu friends in his mohalla. His family comprises of his wife Tabassum (Neena Gupta), his younger brother Bilaal (Manoj Pahwa) and his wife Chhoti Tabassum (Prachi Shah), their son Shahid Mohammed (Prateik Babbar) and daughter Aayat. Soon, his daughter-in-law, Aarti Mohammed (Taapsee Pannu) also arrives from Germany after a tiff with her hubby.
However, the life in the Mohammed household take a drastic turn when Shahid gets involved in terrorist activities and is shot down by the investigating cop Danish Javed (Rajat Kapur). Because of the perception their religion inadvertently causes them to be associated with, the Mohammeds find themselves in a soup where they not only have to defend themselves, but also prove their love for their 'mulk'.
Anubhav Sinha picks up a burning issue about how people fall prey to political agendas without realising that terrorism has no religion. The filmmaker makes use of some heavy-weight dialogues to add more to the intensity and tries to present the truth without any filters. However, while doing so, the filmmaker ends up stretching the screenplay like a bubblegum, and the film starts losing steam at certain portions. Also, Mulk has Sinha spelling out certain topics aloud, as opposed to the subtlety, which would have made things even more impactful.
Speaking about performances, the film majorly rests on Rishi Kapoor's sturdy shoulders and the veteran actor once again proves why he can pull off any role given to him. Taapsee Pannu plays her part effectively, though she does stumble a bit and goes a tad overboard when it comes to her long monologues towards the climax. Manoj Pahwa is in top form. Ashutosh Rana and Kumud Mishra in a guest appearance bring in some hint of humour with their dialogues. The rest of the cast - Neena Gupta, Rajat Kapoor, Prateik Babbar, Prachee Shah Pandya, Ashrut Jain and Indraneil Sengupta are fine in their parts.
Evan Mulligan's cinematography captures the milieu of the small town quite effectively. Ballu Saluja's editing scissors should have been a little more sharper. The music of Mulk barely has anything new to offer and doesn't add much value to the film.
With a slow-paced first half, Mulk takes its own sweet time to establish the plot, but turns into a gripping narrative once the courtroom scenes set in. Most importantly, it makes you come face to face with grappling issues that are often brushed under the carpet.
With its heart in the right place, Mulk sets out to deliver a hard-hitting message, which is the need of the hour where religion is the most misunderstood thing.