Netflix’s most recent Indian film Pagglait is the story of a young widow who pulls herself out of the rut she finds herself in and makes decisions for herself, while her husband’s family and relatives go about the mourning rituals in the weeks after his death. If you enjoyed the film, here’s a list of five others with similar themes that you might like:
Streams on: MUBI.
Pedro Almodóvar’s brightly coloured Volver (literally, to go back) is the story of five women: Raimunda (played by a beautiful Penélope Cruz), her daughter Paula, her sister Sole, their neighbour Agustina, and Raimunda and Sole’s “is-she-a-ghost?” mother Irene. One day Raimunda comes home to find that Paula has killed her – Raimunda’s – husband when he tried to come on to her. Meanwhile, Sole is visited by Irene, whom they all thought was dead. How these women navigate the ins and outs of their fraught lives and how the sins of the mother may be visited upon the daughter(s) make up this complex and rewarding movie.
Mirch Masala (1987)
Streams on: MUBI (until April 3).
Ketan Mehta’s Mirch Masala, set in colonial India, is about the solidarity that emerges from shared trauma. When the local subedar sets his sights on Sonbai, she refuses his advances and takes refuge in the local mirch masala factory. The village chastises her, but the chowkidaar of the factory protects her. The other women in the village are at first a bit taken aback by her resolve (some even gladly submit to the subedar’s seduction), but eventually they come to her defence. The battle against the subedar eventually becomes a battle against the village’s mighty patriarchy. The women’s weapon in the climax is the masala they have powdered themselves, underlining the essential feminist truth that women don’t have to be like men to stand up for themselves. The film has an all-star cast of Smita Patil, Naseeruddin Shah, Om Puri, Deepti Naval, Paresh Rawal, Benjamin Gilani and all three Pathak women: Dina, Ratna and Supriya.
Streams on: YouTube.
Reese Witherspoon optioned Cheryl Strayed’s memoir Wild, then produced and starred in it herself. When Cheryl’s mother (Laura Dern) dies suddenly of cancer, it sends Cheryl into a spiral of depression, drugs and sex. This ruins her marriage, and results in her getting pregnant and not knowing who the father might be. Following an abortion, Cheryl decides to pull herself up by hiking along the lengthy and gruelling Pacific Crest Trail, which stretches for over four thousand kilometres across western America. The unforgiving terrain forces Cheryl (who ‘strayed’) to reconsider her life and revisit memories of her mother. Witherspoon and Dern were both nominated for Oscars for their work in this film.
Ramprasad Ki Tehrvi (2021)
Not streaming anywhere right now.
Seema Pahwa’s Ramprasad Ki Tehrvi is very like Pagglait in that they are both stories of a family collecting together in the wake of a death. But unlike Pagglait, Ramprasad isn’t focussed on any single character. Rather, the various members of this bulging family are all equally important to the director, and their various tensions and frictions are given equal play. The patriarch has died, and all his sons and their wives and progeny descend on the old haveli for the thirteen days after his death. Old tussles come to the fore: suspicious sisters-in-law, lovesick nephews, independent wives, tired sons: they all try to avoid the thorns in their relationships, but they eventually have to face them. In the end, they learn that temporary peace is better than eternal enmity.
August: Osage County (2013)
Streams on: YouTube.
Based on Tracy Letts’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play, August: Osage County begins with the disappearance and, as is later discovered, death of Beverly Weston. His family arrive at his home to take care of his drug-addled and cancer-stricken wife Violet (Meryl Streep) as they grieve his passing. Horrible old family secrets are unveiled, broken marriages are brought to light, illicit sexual connections are forged, and the whole frayed family is united by the caustic and honest sarcasm of Violet. It’s hard to pick one standout in a terrific cast, but Julia Roberts in an Oscar-nominated performance as Violet’s oldest daughter plays very successfully against type.