Synopsis – A local politician whose prized jackfruits go missing and a young police officer who is adamant to solve this bizarre case to prove herself.
My Take – While several recent films and web series have used law enforcement of small towns to tell serious tales, this latest Netflix release uses a different approach by instead poking a little fun at their expense. Set up as a simple light hearted comedy film with a satire on the administrative and social system of small towns, the story here cleverly intertwines the disappearance of two jack fruits with a captivating narrative that reveals broader societal issues.
Backed by a perfect balance of humor and pace, director Yashowardhan Mishra, who co-wrote the film with his father Ashok Mishra, here, skillfully highlights complex caste dynamics and gender biases without being preachy.
Sure, it could have delved deeper into some of these themes, nevertheless, the film deserves credit for beautifully capturing the allure of rural life and its simple joys.
Anchored by yet another superb act from Sanya Malhotra, the resulting film works effortlessly as a 115 minute long heart-warming, cheering and uplifting experience.
Set against the backdrop of a small town called Moba in Uttar Pradesh, the story follows Mahima Basor (Sanya Malhotra), a sharp inspector from a lower caste who finds herself tangled in an unusual case when she is tasked by her superiors to find two missing jack fruits of the Uncle Hong variety. Belonging to Munnalal Patera (Vijay Raaz), a well connected local MLA, the cops find themselves under immense pressure as the politician continues to spread a threatening resolve.
With local journalist Anuj (Rajpal Yadav), just a step behind them looking for a breaking scoop, Mahima along with her three constables, Saurabh (Anant Vijay Joshi), Kunti (Neha Saraf), and Mishra (Govind Pandey), begin looking for every angle for the possible culprit, digging into areas which leads them to some unexpected truths.
On the surface, the premise of the film is as bizarre as it can get. But the satirical comedy-drama has its heart in the right place. The film starts on a funny note after the cops start looking out for the missing jack fruits but slowly and steadily as it moves ahead, different layers unfold.
The film premise may sound simple, but it is actually a very cleverly and brilliantly written story which touches some of the most critical topics of Indian society. And it does that in a very simple yet strong and funny way. The beauty of the film lies in many things but mainly in its writing.
More than often, police dramas have tried to show bureaucratic and power play issues, but have failed. However, the film delicately picks up these very issues and presents them with a touch of humor. It gives you frequent nudges about the right and the wrong, succeeding in delivering its message.
The makers have tried to touch upon extremely relevant subjects like loopholes in the dubious bureaucracy, how those at the top of the hierarchical food chain are the only ones deserving of justice and how the police are always at their beck and call no matter what, and themes related to sexism and casteism, without the slightest trace of it being preachy.
The film will resonate with anyone who feels like law enforcement’s role of protecting public safety has been diverted into serving the needs of the political elite rather than the public.
Certain subtexts are seamlessly blended into the narrative and never for once do they come across as a constricted and ham-fisted attempt to make a strong statement on the current socio-political state of affairs even if they are very much so. Despite being quite adamant and sincere in its core objective, the film never gives up its quirky demeanor. It kept the humor going until the story reached its conclusion.
The cops at the Moba police station aren’t your regular Bollywood cops we’ve been seeing on the big screen. They’re not stylish, they’re not fierce and they cannot chase and bring down a gang of rowdies single-handedly. The final sequence sees Mahima and her team break into an old and debilitated house with a chic pink door and fight a group of kidnappers by throwing vegetables at them is charmingly loud.
Performance wise, Sanya Malhotra completely owns the film, pulls you into its world and leaves you feeling exulted. She’s the most grounded element in a film where everyone gets to play zany caricatures, and it’s on her to keep events tethered in some semblance of reality. Seasoned comic actors like Rajpal Yadav, Vijay Raaz, Brijendra Kala and Gurpal Singh lend their impeccable timing and charm to the film.
Anant Joshi makes a promising debut and provides able support to Sanya’s Mahima. In other roles, Neha Saraf, Govind Pandey, and Raghuvir Yadav are highly effective. On the whole, ‘Kathal’ is a heartwarming social satire that is both hilarious and thought-provoking.
Directed – Yashowardhan Mishra
Starring – Sanya Malhotra, Vijay Raaz, Rajpal Naurang Yadav
Rated – PG13
Run Time – 115 minutes