Vijay Raaz, Rajpal Yadav, and Brijendra Kala too put up solid performances in an otherwise uneven attempt at satirical social commentary
Last Updated: 08.59 AM, May 19, 2023
Mahima Basor (Sanya Malhotra) is a young and spirited policewoman in Moba. She is aided by Constables Saurabh Dwivedi (Anant Vijay Joshi) and Kunti Parihar (Neha Saraf) at the local police station. When two rare jackfruits of the Uncle Hong species go missing from the local MLA Munna Lal Pateria (Vijay Raaz)’s garden, Mahima is tasked with catching hold of the culprit. Her investigation takes an unforeseen turn as she ends up unearthing a far more serious case involving the abduction of a teenage girl. How Mahima tries to solve the case while also trying to prove that she is worthy of her position, despite coming from the lower strata of the society forms the crux of the story.
At the onset, writer Ashok Mishra presents an interesting premise in Kathal – A Jackfruit Mystery. Along with debutant director Yashowardhan Mishra, he plays with the thought process of the viewers as one doesn’t fully comprehend whether the film is a comedy, a satirical social commentary, or a mystery (as suggested by the movie’s tagline – A Jackfruit mystery), only to realise at the end, that the film is all of it rolled into one.
Honestly, Kathal gets full points for attempting something different. The very fact that a full-fledged police investigation is launched just to search for two missing jackfruits is absurd and comical and that differentiates Kathal from the bulk of Bollywood films already.
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Throughout the film, there are instances that will bring a smile to your face and invite a few chuckles as well. Whether its Kunti telling Mahima why she doesn’t want to be promoted, Saurabh trying to strike a balance between his love for Mahima and the taunts of his family for being in a junior position than her, or Rajpal Yadav as Anuj – the reporter of a local news channel in search of “breaking news” – the attention to detail in each of the characters deserves a special mention.
The film also brings to the fore the flaws of the judicial system, the tedious process of police investigations, and how, often some important case files get buried under layers of dust because of the ignorance of a few, the role and relevance of media and reporters, gender roles in the society among others through the subtle social commentary of the characters that live in the small town of Moba.
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Now, while the attempt is laudable, Mishra’s writing seems to meander a long way before hitting the point. While the makers have managed to avoid unnecessary sub-plots in an attempt to make the screenplay crisp and sharp, the film suffers from a little sloppy editing by Prerna Saigal which makes it appear a tad bit stretched.
The uneven pace with which the film progresses also tests your patience at times. By the time you have watched the first half of the film, it already feels like it’s about to end soon. But then it dawns upon you that the entire second half is still left. The Priyadarshan-esque mayhem in the climax too seems to have been stretched unnecessarily.
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What helps Kathal soar is the able performances of its cast members. Sanya Malhotra impresses as a spirited young policewoman. We’re first introduced to her as an undercover cop in a honeytrap operation. Just the sight of her chasing the bad guys through narrow market lanes, clad in a salwar kameez is a breath of fresh air.
Sanya brings a likable vulnerability to her character which serves as a subtle reminder that cops are also human beings. She essays a character that is at least twice marginalized – she’s a woman from the lower strata of society, working and living in a male-dominated patriarchal setup that doesn’t let her be glad at being promoted because the man she loves is still at a lower position than her. Sanya understands the layers and brings them to the screen effortlessly. So when his senior officer tries to make a pass at her, she wastes no time in saying, “Hame bachpan se hi haddiyaan todne ka bohot shaukh hai” with a smile on her face.
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Anant V Joshi plays his part well but there are times when you question the casting choice for his role as you feel perhaps somebody like Priyanshu Painyuli would have been better suited for the character. Rajpal Yadav also hits the mark as the slightly over-the-top, news hungry reporter. Brijendra Kala as the forensic expert and Neha Saraf as Mahima’s assistant have little to do in the overall scheme of things but they don’t disappoint.
Vijay Raaz as the MLA Munna Lal Pateria leaves a lasting impact in his brief role. His character gets some of the most entertaining scenes – especially the ones involving his banter with his son-in-law. It also comes as a welcome change to see a father-in-law constantly taunting and making sarcastic comments at his son-in-law since quite a lot of us grew up watching saas-bahu sagas where the mother-in-law does the same to her bahu. Glad to get a glimpse of what it would be like if the roles get reversed in real life.
Harshvir Oberoi’s cinematography is up to the mark. The music by Ram Sampath is apt and suits the setting well. Also, it’s a treat to hear Sona Mohapatra’s vocals in Lalla Lalli and Nikar Chalo Re. The soundtrack, though not extremely memorable, fits the narrative well.
Kathal suffers because of shoddy editing and uneven pace. Nevertheless, it’s worth a dekho on a lazy weekend afternoon.
(All images via YouTube/Screengrab)