One of the most perceptive scenes in Karthik Swaminathan’s Mughizh is a conversation between Kavya’s (a lovely Shreeja Sethupathi) parents. They are discussing their daughter’s mindset after a death in the family and the father (played by Vijay Sethupathi) explains how he had wanted his daughter to be able to deal with this particular situation, but only after 10 or 15 years. Like puberty, grief too is a big part of growing up and that’s what Mughizh wants to explore. But instead of focusing on the 10-year-old who has to grow up too soon, the film is generous enough to show us that her parents are still learning to grow up too.
It doesn’t portray the parents as people with all the answers. They might be a lot older but they are vulnerable too, especially in such a situation. As for Kavya, we see them giving her the space to grieve and the time (most importantly) to truly feel what she’s going through. So what if she misses a day or two of school? And what’s the big deal if she skips a meal? Parents from a generation ago couldn’t even imagine giving their children this space, but in Mughizh you witness how it can help a girl like Kavya.
It’s also a film that doesn’t shout out its noble intentions. Mughizh takes its time, taking us through moments that create a feeling of emptiness and that eerie silence that follows a tragedy. And most importantly, it’s never patronising to its young protagonist and what she’s going through. In a sense, it’s a children’s film that treats its core audience with respect, expecting them to have the maturity to understand what it’s trying to say.
Shot in a series of low angles, we first see their world like how Scooby (a beagle) sees it. As we go along, these angles change, the music dries up and the making becomes more rigid to accommodate the changing mood of this household. A shot of photo frames make a comeback later on, but the meaning has changed this time around. A couple of dialogues and a small picture in the background is enough to give us hints of how this couple could have met, what they may have gone through, and why Kavya’s grandparents aren’t in the picture.
With this minimal approach, Mughizh holds its frames to give viewers the space to figure it out for ourselves. What this is able to achieve is navigate a minefield of emotions without ever resorting to sentimentality. At first, we mistake this as being simplistic and a tad too plain. But soon, you warm up to it and you understand why this approach was chosen. At a time when films like Annabelle Sethupathi get dismissed as a children’s movie, Mughizh reminds us that it should be a film’s honour to be called that. And in the importance we give films that deal with earth-shattering issues, we forget that little films about puppies and grief are important too.