Kathal movie review: Sanya Malhotra-starrer 'jackfruit mystery' is deliciously sweet with apt doses of social commentary

Kathal movie review: Sanya Malhotra-starrer social satire is a well made film that delivers an important message.

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Director: Yashowardhan Mishra

Cast: Sanya Malhotra, Anant V Joshi, Vijay Raaz, Rajpal Yadav, Brijendra Kala, Neha Saraf

Where to watch: Netflix

Rating: 3 stars

To call Kathal a satire would be underselling it. The film is a mix of sharp satire, crisp political and social commentary, smart comedy, and a little bit of melodrama. The key is that it is all present in the right amount, making this jackfruit recipe a tasty one, if not an overwhelmingly delicious one. The film has its faults but manages to overcome them through its simplicity and conviction.

Inspired by some absurd true events, Kathal is the story of how two favourite jackfruits of the local MLA (Vijay Raaz in a rather questionable wig) are ‘stolen’ and the local police department is deployed in this crazy manhunt. The case is handed to local Inspector Mahima (Sanya Malhotra) and her team, who are unsure if spending this much time in finding two fruits is the right use of police personnel. A parallel case of a missing girl crash lands this hunt and Mahima realises she can kill two fruits with one stone.

Kathal’s biggest victory is its short runtime. At under 2 hours, it never gets dull or slow and never drags the plot. Every scene, every sequence is essential and drives the plot forward, helping us understand the motivations and backgrounds of the various characters, be it the cops, the politician, or the enthusiastic local journalist (Rajpal Yadav, also in a questionable wig). Every character is fleshed out well, and thw writers Ashok Mishra and Yashowardhan Mishra deserve credit for doing that in a limited and short runtime.

The film is as much a satire on the clout of local politicians as it is on the apathy towards crime against women. Full marks to director Yashowardhan Mishra for taking serious issues like these and presenting them lightly, but without ever making light of the situation. The film does falter in its sharpness. The wit and satire could have been more in-your-face, like Peepli Live was over a decade ago. But Kathal shows more restraint, which does dampen the sweetness, but not ny much. It is still a tasty dish.

Kathal is the second streaming project in as many weeks to have a protagonist police officer in a small town, who hails from a backward caste. Dahaad was the other one. And despite the vast difference in genres, Kathal also deftly manages the caste issue, bringing to the fore the trials and tribulations of the protagonist as well as how her social status affects her authority and work. And while this is done in a very upfront manner, never does it get preachy. Even the romantic track in the film (between Sanya and Anant V Joshi) is not a distraction or addition, but quite important to the characters and the plot.

Sanya Malhotra looks the part as the small-town righteous cop with a case she does not want. Her diction is on point as is her demeanour. The Dangal girl is no stranger to playing small-town girls and she stands level with some accomplished performers. Rajpal Yadav, as the journalist, steals the show in most of his scenes as does Vijay Raaz. But for me, the star of the show was Raghuvir Yadav, who managed to infuse new life into the film at the fag end despite limited screen time.

Kathal is a film that punches above its weight, and in parts, it succeeds too. But yet, there are complaints too. It gets predictable in parts and the melodrama does get overpowering in a scene or too. But clever writing and natural acting makes sure the film never gets boring or overwhelming.

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