Cargo Hindi Movie Review

Feature Film | Comedy, Drama | 1h 53min
Buried underneath the occasional laughs and playfulness of Arati Kadav's 'Cargo' is a sense of melancholy. The movie works as a musing on life after death and lonely astronauts. A homegrown blend of science-fiction and Indian mythology, Kadav's film subverts sci-fi formulas.
Sep 9, 2020 By Sreejith Mullappilly

Most sci-fi movies are either special effects-driven space sagas or meditative and existential flicks. Arati Kadav's 'Cargo' fits into the latter category of sci-fi films. Cargo starts Blade Runner-esque, with a text used to serve as an explainer. The year is 2027, and successors of demons are in the space age after signing the 'Rakshasa-Manushya Peace Treaty'. As part of this treaty, they have launched some spaceships, where demon astronauts will recreate dead people and send them back to earth as beings wiped out of memory.

Prahasta played by 'Death In The Gunj' star Vikrant Massey is one of those demon astronauts, who has been receiving and sending back 'human cargos' in the spaceship 'Pushpak 634A' for 75 years. What he does is a part of the so-called 'Post Death Transition Services'.

For a demon, Prahasta is a terrifying name that seems like a demented cousin of Hasthar from Tumbbad. But the guy looks and speaks like an amiable marketing executive rather than a demon. Who is to say our demons have thorns, extended hands, and bulging teeth? Even Mahabali is a demon, and he is portrayed as a big, fat king in our folklore. But have you ever wondered why he appears an obese person when Vamana has expelled him to Patala, where he would supposedly live without any food?

So, it is only audacious and appropriate to make Prahasta look a cool dude clad in casuals. He does the mundane job that involves reincarnating people, and video chatting with an Earth-based demon named Nitigya (Nandu Madhav). His life takes a turn when his space organization sends to him the assistant demon astronaut, Shweta Tripathi's Yuvishka (a nod to Virushka perhaps?). The only thing that is perhaps demonic about all of them is that they have superpowers. Prahasta can make objects fly with his mind, Yuvishka can heal people, and Nitigya can go about 90% invincible in an act that looks like a TV set malfunctioning.

There are only these few characters in Cargo, and the movie works as a musing on lonely astronauts and afterlife. This concept of astronauts being lonely is not new. In fact, it is as old as Tarkovsky's 'Solaris' or may be even older than it. But there is a novelty to Kadav's theme, and her film has some charm. It takes some patience from the audience to fully appreciate what she is doing here. The production design is a proof of the modest budget she worked with for 'Cargo'. So, it is an issue when 2027's communications tools are old box TV set-like devices, selfie phones, tablets, and old radios.

But what Kadav lacks in the traditional sci-fi form, she somewhat makes up in ideas. There are moments of inspired humor midway through this existential space film that elicit laughs from the audience. I particularly enjoyed one moment where Yuvishka welcomes a dead human cargo like how a call center executive would greet a mundane customer. Much of Kadav's Netflix film revolves around her and Massey's Prahasta. And, buried underneath the occasional laughs and playfulness of Cargo is a sense of melancholy. The ending may not be the big pay off that we expect to see, but it is one that subverts sci-fi formulas.

Sreejith Mullappilly