Kathal Hindi Movie
I do not remember the last time I enjoyed a string of comic performances as much as I did while watching Yashowardhan Mishra's "Kathal: A Jackfruit Mystery". The story involves a pair of missing jackfruit belonging to a local politician and the search for the product. It is hanging from the jackfruit tree one day but goes missing the next. Police officers, led by Sanya Malhotra's Inspector Mahima, are tasked with finding the jackfruit thief in a high-profile case. What's in a jackfruit, you may wonder? Well, this is not just any other jackfruit, but rather the internationally known "Uncle Hong" variety.
While it involves a group of cops searching for the missing jackfruit, Kathal is more about corruption in the law enforcement system and a messed-up society. The story of the missing jackfruits takes a back seat as the plot moves forward. The jackfruit bit is only a mere trigger for the plot and is not as central to the story as it may seem on paper. It is used to throw collective darts at the law enforcement system and society at large. The biggest irony of the whole investigation is that it makes it seem like a pair of missing jackfruits matters more to law enforcement than missing girls.
It is refreshing to see a Hindi film with a female cop as the protagonist. Sanya Malhotra is suitably cast for the role, and she uses a sense of warmth and gentle humor to bring down possible suspects. Mahima hardly shouts at potential suspects or her colleagues in the film. There is this superb scene in a police station where a male cop looks at her and starts to make sleazy comments about her. "You should have taken up modeling," says the male cop. Pop comes the reply, "I like police work because I like to break bones." Sanya Malhotra deals with the male gaze and pretty much everything else with a smile, and she remains a luminous presence throughout the movie.
There are equally hilarious supporting characters as well. Take Rajpal Yadav, for instance. In one of his best performances in years, Rajpal Yadav is incredibly funny and seizes an opportunity whenever he gets one. Rajpal Yadav plays news reporter Anuj, the kind of man who sees every situation as an opportunity to cause a stir or make the headlines. This is the kind of high-energy performance that the actor is known for. There is also Brijendra Kala as a forensic expert with deadpan humor.
While it is entertaining, the writing is not particularly remarkable in "Kathal: A Jackfruit Mystery". For instance, Vijay Raaz's character of a local politician starts on a strong note but takes a back seat further ahead in the movie. The climax involving a sack of vegetables is way over the top and not particularly funny. Plus, some of the jokes do not land, and the movie fails to treat its themes of human trafficking, child labor, and female abduction with enough heft. Nevertheless, the Netflix film is consistently funny and makes for a rather pleasant watch.