Kathal movie review: Sanya Malhotra's near-perfect satire impresses in parts

May 19, 2023 02:02 PM IST

Kathal movie review: Sanya Malhotra brings a balance in physically intense and emotionally charged scenes in this satire.

In perhaps one of the most bizarre plots you will hear, two prized jackfruits of the Uncle Hong variety go missing from the garden of an MLA. And the entire police force is put on a search mission for the same. That’s the premise of Kathal: A Jackfruit Mystery, a quirky yet subtle satire on the ambiguous position the police force is put into, while serving the rich and mighty. The film explores the sociocultural issues that are prevalent in the interiors of central India, where a crime like ‘kathal ki chori’ needs to be investigated, and cannot be ignored. The film also highlights the pertinent issues of caste bias and power play that often determine the course of investigation by police officers. There’s a line in the film where a senior police officer tells an inspector, ‘Tumhe jo bola gaya hai, woh woh karo, main bhi wohi kar raha hoon, jo mujhe bola gaya hai’.

Kathal movie review: Sanya Malhotra plays a police officer searching for two jackfruits.
Kathal movie review: Sanya Malhotra plays a police officer searching for two jackfruits.

Set in a small fictional town named Moba, the story delves into the life of young Inspector Mahima Basor (Sanya Malhotra) who is leading the case of missing or stolen jackfruits from MLA Munnalal Pateria’s (Vijay Raaz) garden. While she is solving the mystery along with fellow constables Saurabh Dwivedi (Anant Joshi), Kunti Parihar (Neha Saraf) and Mishra (Govind Pandey), her investigation takes unexpected turns. Amid all this, a snoopy journalist, Anuj (Rajpal Yadav) from Moba News is continuously trying to find some ‘sansanikhez khabar’ from this case. What follows next is how this search for kathals turns into a bigger issue and eventually leads to something more meaningful.

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The story, co-written by Yashowardhan and his father Ashok Mishra, a two-time National Award winner, doesn’t have too much going on in any given sequence. It’s more like dealing with one thing at a time. And that, I felt, is a trick that works. The easy-going narrative lets you soak up the nuances of that scene, virtually transporting you to that location and connect with the tension the characters are going through.

With a runtime of a little less than two hours, the investigative satire comedy is laced with intelligent humour, some very aptly placed comic punches, which land perfectly. There aren’t overtly hilarious moments, but if you have a taste for dark humour and knack for understanding the funny lines said with a straight face, you would certainly enjoy Kathal. The film also tries to break-free from the image of how cops are usually perceived to be harsh, ruthless and masculine. Instead, they are shown as more empathetic, understanding and like working professionals, having fun in between work shifts.

The satire is directed by Yashowardhan Mishra.
The satire is directed by Yashowardhan Mishra.

Sanya Malhotra is once again at her comic best. We saw her showcase her raw and rustic side in Vishal Bhardwaj’s Pataakha and in Kathal, too, she delivers a convincing act. Essaying the role of a cop, she is smart, spirited, go-getter and on-point with her lingo and comic timing. She brings a balance in physically intense and emotionally charged scenes. Anant Joshi, who plays Malhotra’s junior and love interest, is a breath of fresh air. Though I felt his character sketch could have been written better and was more fleshed out, in whatever scenes he gets to shine, he makes the most of it. Vijay Raaz doesn’t bring anything new to the table and looks like yet another character with a different name and look. Rajpal Yadav needs to reinvent his funny-man antics, as he is getting quite monotonous. Especially with that weird half-bald wig, his character appeared rather silly than being funny.

Kathal isn’t an extraordinary story with a remarkable execution yet the way with which the screenplay unfolds and the narrative remains understated, it somehow works and leaves you with a smile. Watch it for light-hearted humour and maybe get close to the reality of small towns. Kathal: A Jackfruit Mystery is now streaming on Netflix.

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