Kathal, A Hilarious Comedy Mystery Film Featuring Sanya Malhotra Unraveling Jackfruit Jeopardy And Gender Dynamics

In the realm of comedy-mystery, the film 'Kathal' ventures into familiar territory, much like its predecessor 'Dahaad.' However, it brings its own unique blend of humor and pop culture references that sets it apart. If you're in search of a sharp and socially conscious cop drama, especially with a female lead, look no further. Although 'Dahaad' offered a gripping tale of casteism and misogyny in northern India, it lacked moments of relief. In response, Netflix now presents 'Kathal,' a mystery film that treads similar ground but adds a dash of humor and pop sensibility.

The story revolves around Moba MLA Munnalal Pateria (played by Vijay Raaz), who finds himself incensed when two stolen Malaysian breed jackfruits, each weighing 15 kilos, vanish from his front yard. These jackfruits were intended for a special pickle, a promised gift for the state's Chief Minister. Inspector Mahima Basor (portrayed by Sanya Malhotra) is assigned to investigate the peculiar case. Bemused and aghast, she quickly realizes the absurdity of it all. Nonetheless, it becomes her mission to recover the missing jackfruits, aided by constables Kunti (Neha Saraf) and Saurabh (Anant Vijay Joshi), who also happens to be her partner.

Without revealing any spoilers, it's safe to say that the jackfruits serve as a mere MacGuffin in the larger scheme of things. As Mahima delves deeper into the case, a more pressing and complex crime emerges, shifting the tone of the film into a serio-comic realm. Rajpav Yadav's portrayal of a local journalist, with his peculiar partially bald crown, adds a quirky layer of humor reminiscent of the Japanese chonmage hairstyle. However, amidst the visual quirkiness, 'Kathal' masterfully explores the intersection of gender and caste dynamics. Mahima's life mirrors that of Sonakshi Sinha's character in 'Dahaad'—a woman from a backward caste who has risen through the ranks but still faces sexism and underlying prejudices that permeate society.

Produced by Guneet Monga Kapoor, through her Sikhya Entertainment, known for their light-touch, gender-sensitive dark comedies like 'Pagglait,' 'Kathal' exhibits their distinct influence. Additionally, the film draws inspiration from the popular web series platform TVF (The Viral Fever). Director Yashowardhan Mishra cleverly incorporates the visual grammar and aesthetics synonymous with the best TVF shows. One can expect cameos from acclaimed actors Raghubir Yadav and Ranjan Raj. The vibrant art design and cinematography accentuate the colorful world, featuring a pink Nano car here and an orange popsicle there. The final climax culminates in a playful vegetable fight. While the ideas may not be groundbreaking, they are sure to captivate the attention of an eager audience.

'Kathal' demonstrates perceptive storytelling when it comes to portraying the small-town universe and its interaction with modernity. Mahima solves her case by analyzing CCTV footage and images shared via WhatsApp. Brijendra Kala portrays a forensic expert dressed in a suit, highlighting the prevalence of digitization. However, the film also reflects the perception of technology and Westernization as corrupting influences. In one instance, Mahima is informed that a missing girl used to wear "ripped jeans," which is seen as an incriminating detail. Conversely, a police officer proudly displays pictures of his daughter in Western attire while searching for a suitable groom from an upper-caste background.

Sanya Malhotra delivers a flawless performance as Mahima, effortlessly alternating between sweet-faced charm and exasperation. The film, maintaining its light-hearted tone, doesn't present her with many challenges. Her chemistry with Joshi's character, Saurabh, adds depth to their on-screen relationship, showcasing a power dynamic rarely explored in Hindi cinema. Despite being a lowly constable, Saurabh struggles to shed his caste privilege, and Mahima confronts him about his mistreatment of the less fortunate, all while waiting for him to be promoted so they can marry. It's a lively and emotionally engaging interplay, brought to life by the remarkable performances of Malhotra and Joshi.

True to a film centered around the search for missing jackfruits, 'Kathal' presents characters dissatisfied with their jobs. The portly superintendent sighs, "We go by the IPC—Indian Political Code." Meanwhile, Rajpal Yadav's character, Anuj, a reporter skilled at detecting fake news, describes journalism as a "thankless job." However, in a scene where Mahima arrives to arrest him, we witness him beaming from ear to ear. Accused of "anti-national" activities, he couldn't be happier, knowing how such stories gain attention in the media. His program 'Moba Samaachaar' is on the brink of international recognition.

In conclusion, 'Kathal' offers an engaging comedy-mystery with its own distinct flavor. It adeptly balances humor, social commentary, and pop culture references to weave a captivating tale. The film's exploration of small-town dynamics, the impact of modernity, and the intricacies of caste & gender dynamics adds depth to the narrative. Sanya Malhotra shines in her role as Mahima, and the film's easy-breezy tone keeps audiences hooked. As you join Mahima on her journey to find the stolen jackfruits, prepare for an enjoyable & thought-provoking cinematic experience.