Kathal: A Jackfruit Mystery Movie Review – Sharp satire meets worthy Bollywood melodrama

Sharp satire meets worthy Bollywood melodrama

Kathal: A Jackfruit Mystery is a new Bollywood film on Netflix. This is a hard-hitting satire on India’s social inequalities wrapped up deliciously in a lighthearted vein. The package has mass appeal thanks to its characterization and how well the makers understand Indian viewers.¬†Sanya Malhotra stars in the central role, while Rajpal Yadav, Vijay Raaz, and newcomer Anant Joshi play supporting roles.

Kathal follows the mystery of two missing jackfruits from a high-profile MLA’s house, while the disappearance of a young girl takes a backseat. Inspector Basor (Malhotra) takes it upon herself to level the playing field and comes up with a solution to do real police work under the garb of following orders.

For international viewers, getting the subtleties of social commentary will be a huge challenge. Kathal is firmly grounded in the rich subtext of small-town Indian sensibilities. Director and writer Yashowardhan Mishra not only acknowledges the unsaid truths of our society but also pokes fun at them. His satirical approach is a little wayward, being surprisingly sharp and dull at different moments. But speaking in broader terms, it is highly effective.

Mahima Basor is the voice of all frustrated underdogs who find themselves powerless yet not hopeless at the hands of institutional hierarchies. Mahima finds herself torn in between her duty to the appearance of a police officer and real police work. We have all been that person some time in our lives. The real light of appreciation lies for Mishra as he navigates the tough challenge of using Basor both to offset his artistic obligations and as a narrative catalyst.

The commentary about caste dynamics, gender discrimination, and the purposeful treatment of such a serious subject matter in a lighthearted tone makes all the difference. The efforts revolve around Basor and try their best to remain streamlined. But the execution is uneven, to say the least. Kathal is colourful and flavorful. Its use of different dialects and seeing on screen the assimilation of a potpourri of cultures in Moba villages gives viewers a taste of unseen India. Or perhaps seen but not recognized before like this.

The makers do seem committed to ensuring the authenticity of their portrayal. For many, all aspects of production are ingeniously reproduced from the ground to paper, and onto the screen. It is not necessary to have a trained ear to understand things but having one gives you a closer connection with the film.

While the setting is indeed unique for our screens, it also creates a challenge for the broader mass of viewers. Credit must be given to the actors as well, for taking this part of their performances seriously.

Rajpal Yadav makes a touching comeback in his first major role after years. His trademark style and tenor are a joy to see again. Even though in hindsight, Anuj’s arc could have been a little more refined to make a more critical statement on the state of media in the country, the character represents strong views nonetheless.

One missing winning ingredient from this commentary is not seeing the nexus of crime, politics, and media. The troika of these three is the core of Kathal but somehow, Mishra fails to truly imbibe that in his storytelling.

If one looks closely enough, Kathal not only satirizes how the police force is sent on wild goose chases in the country at the behest of represented electives but also exposes how inefficient and unmotivated the uniformed personnel are. Police apathy is not new for any democracy. Each geography has its problems but India, specifically, struggles to reconcile the vested individual rights of citizens and empower the police to discharge its duty. Through the characters of Mishra, Kunti, and even SP Randhawa, this glaring truth of our society is brought to the surface.

Having said that, Kathal does have some fundamental shortcomings. The tone is inconsistent and there is certainly confusion as to the film’s identity. Kathal is a film of two contrasting halves wherein the first one is not as inspiring and watchable as the second. There is a sudden shift in tone when Basor and the others discover how Amiya has been kidnapped. This change is quite jarring in hindsight and concerningly, the first half does not build up on the second.¬†They have two different lives and that does make the storytelling feel disjointed.

Kathal wants to be a bit of everything and loses focus in the process. The execution of the story and performances seem a little wayward and contrived. But undeniably, this Netflix film is tailor-made for Indian audiences.


Read More: Kathal Ending Explained

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  • Verdict - 7/10

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