The new Netflix film Kathal, starring Sanya Malhotra in the lead role, is a mixed-bag satire that couldn’t fully utilize its satiric potential. Even though it is sharp in criticizing the people in power for their double standards and insensitivity, the confusion on whether to make it a true blue satire causes a bit of creative hesitation. Hence that desired punch was somewhere missing in totality.
Set in a rural North Indian town, Kathal talks about the missing case of two Kathals (Jackfruits) from the garden of a sitting MLA. Since they were a special breed and the MLA planned to make pickles using them to please the CM, the case escalated very quickly. Inspector Mahima Basor and her team were in charge of the case, and we see her investigation in the movie.
From the moment the jackfruits are introduced, we know that it is this eccentric satire about the system’s priorities. And if you look at it on a script level, the idea of a lower caste female police officer prioritizing the life of a girl over two Jackfruits and accomplishing the task smartly indeed looks captivating. But the script is a bit wavery in addressing the core topic. The humorous tone of the movie is not blending smoothly with the caste politics it wants to address. This contrast in the narrative style is a bit unsettling.
Yashowardhan Mishra, who directed the film, knows the points he wants to criticize. The workplace inequality women face, the inherent sexism in society, the casteist attitude of the upper caste people, and the priority given to the people in power are getting exposed and scrutinized here. While some of these points occupy their space in the story organically, some are forcefully included in the narrative for the movie to be that socio-political satire. And certain tracks, like Saurabh’s efforts to prove his sincerity by doing an investigation on his own, feels pretty stretched out. In terms of visual language, the film uses framing quite efficiently to communicate the dynamic between characters.
Sanya Malhotra, as the lead character Mahima uses her grip over humor very effectively to pull off the role. Even though the tone shift of the script was unsettling, she managed to switch between the serious and comical shades effortlessly. Anant V Joshi, as the love interest of Mahima, was fine in his character. Rajpal Yadav as the village journalist, was fun to watch even though his bald head looked really bad. Vijay Raaz and Raghubir Yadav were also memorable in their respective roles.
I have felt that the emergence of the OTT platforms has given the makers the freedom to make genre films rather than the masala films that are genre blends. Kathal would have worked better if they had made it like a proper black comedy satire. When the movie shifts from a scene where a lady police officer is tasked with finding the one who stole two jackfruits to a scene where the police officer lectures her subordinate about the responsibility of a police official, it kind of destroys whatever curiosity it built till that point.
Kathal would have worked better if they had made it like a proper black comedy satire.
Green: Recommended Content
Orange: The In-Between Ones
Red: Not Recommended