A lazy Sunday, an indulging Bengali lunch and remote in hand to explore what will best accompany our meal, something that mom, dad and the rest of the family can enjoy. As soon as the introductory TA-DA passes we see a snapshot scene of Kathal on Netflix. The scene is interesting enough, our collective curiosity piqued, we hit play and begin the 1 hour and 55-minute movie Kathal: A Jackfruit Mystery.
Let’s Review Kathal…
We enter the small-town universe of the fictional Moba which seems to be between Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. The town is a melting pot of the modern and the traditional Indian, where technology is embraced but also perceived as corruption. MLA Munnalal Pateria (Vijay Raaz) has pitched his political wagon to his two prized jackfruits ‘Uncle Hong’ that are missing. He summons the local police to investigate and return his beloved pair of Kathals to him.
The case is assigned to the new star cop and protagonist Mahima Bason (Sanya Malhotra). She is aghast but has no choice but to ‘just co-operate’ as her senior instructs her. She begins to investigate with her team of constables. Kunti Parihar (Neha Saraf), is married to a local lawyer. Saurabh Dwivedi (Anant Joshi), is a higher caste constable who is also her beau. And Badri Prasad Mishra (Govind Pandey), another higher caste constable worried about his recently stolen car.
The Story Begins
The story begins with plenty of humour, pop and caricature-like characters. Rajpal Yadav’s Anuj Sanghvi is a balding journalist desperately seeking a great scoop. Brajendra Kala’s Mr. Srivastav is the local forensic expert who is just hilarious. The eccentric characters, comedic quirkiness, and the existence of sexist, casteist and hypocritic prejudice against Western culture make Kathal an entertaining, fun watch.
A little into the movie, we understand that the sweet-faced Mahima is not someone who bows down to something wrong and is dead serious about her sense of duty. She understands and navigates the system to reach her goal, a great role model for my teen daughter watching the movie with us. Mahima, and the audience, soon see that the jackfruits are but a McGuffin, and a larger, more sinister issue looms which just does not bode well with Mahima. She decides to use the Kathal incident to bring back one girl, Amiya (Apoorva Chaturvedi), the gardener’s daughter who is seen as a tobacco-chewing, torn-jeans-wearing rebel, taunted by most villagers.
Inspector Mahima having a ‘there’s always a way’ attitude and viewing her position as one of responsibility rather than one of power is a great take. This character is a great example of women not having to become overtly aggressive to stand out in a predominantly male-dominated field.
Constable Saurabh shows tremendous character growth. There were moments when I was gravitating towards ‘Mahima should move on and not get held back by this guy. He is going to let his father’s misguided advice and the chatter of caste discrimination muddles his mind.’ But then he redeems himself, not just to win back Mahima’s respect but to redeem his own honour. His intentions and actions spoke volumes and the character growth was satisfying.
The pink Nano that I seriously thought was just fiction until I actually saw it zipping across Madhya Pradesh with our team of oddball heroes hot on its trail.
The superb climax fight scene was something that I can see actually happening in real life. Like a fact is stranger, even funnier, than fiction.
What Didn’t Work
Certain scenes felt forced just to keep the movie going. Like Constable Saurabh’s conversation leading to his power trip. And Constable Mishra talking so brazenly about his daughter to convince Saurabh to marry her.
The struggle these days is to keep the audience hooked. The biggest distractions are the smartphones that most of us scroll once the plot gets slow or uninteresting. There are some moments in the film that give distraction an opportunity. The story could have been more gripping with a ‘what comes next’ anticipation. This would have helped close certain loopholes too.
Kathal just wasn’t pulpy enough. The amazing actors, known for delivering comedy gold were not given the opportunity to do what they do best. With a better story, they could have done wonders. They could have had us hooked to the screen, rolling with laughter and wondering what comes next. Somehow, series and movies these days lack that ‘then what happened’ anticipation.
The Final Verdict
Sanjay Malhotra’s Kathal is a good, entertaining one-time watch for a Sunday afternoon with the family. It’s funny, ridiculous, satirical, quirky, kooky and eccentric. We laughed a lot and felt good watching it.
So, that’s a review of Kathal: A Jackfruit Mystery, available to watch on Netflix.