Jackfruit season is here. And so is a well-timed Netflix release of a Bollywood movie, based on a jackfruit mystery.
"A young policewoman tries to solve the strange case of missing jackfruits from a local politician's house to prove her worth for her job position," or something to that effect, is the synopsis on Netflix – which by itself is likely to get scrollers interested. If you do stop by and watch the movie, you won't be disappointed.
The protagonist, Inspector Mahima (played by Sanya Malhotra), is assigned the case of the missing jackfruits – which, for the good first half of the movie, play the main characters.
And if the movie title resurrected any memory flashback of someone running and yelling "kathal chor, kathal chor!," tug that nostalgia away. The movie starts from after the fact.
Mahima, who just caught and turned in a wanted criminal in the area, probes and asks her superior about the seriousness of missing jackfruits. But, the policewoman must oblige and take on the case, especially since a potential appendix surgery of her male counterpart keeps him off the case.
The same male counterpart only makes brief appearances in the film, almost always with the supervisor (Mahima's boss). He represents the typical male employee in the office, who is always a step ahead in praise of the typical male supervisor, the essence of which is perfectly captured with something he said, "Sir, you are really an ocean of wisdom, I wish I could just drown in you." This brings me to the script, and particularly, the dialogue of the movie – sweet and cutthroat, all at the same time.
Kathal, first off, is a nuanced, genuine show of work politics and dynamics in relation to gender. Even the Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) Munnanal Pateria (played by Vijay Raaz) who called the police force in to investigate the missing jackfruits from his yard, undermines Mahima at every opportune moment. And so do all his family members.
MLA Pateria is of course extraordinarily upset about the missing fruits because he was recently told by a person in power "Sometimes to push the political vehicle, it can just take a bit of pickle" – meaning, he believes he needs to send jackfruit achar to win over a conversation with a senior politician. And thus stakes are high.
And then there's the parallel of a distressed poor gardener's woes – who has something much more important than jackfruits missing. The class struggle is a key driving factor of the movie, with Mahima's team, following orders, at the wheel.
The comic reliefs, the effortlessness of sewing complex issues into the script — because it does get more serious and even dark along the storylines – and the satirical feature of the film could inspire a re-watch, or at least, a movie recommendation to someone else.
But the film stays true to its light-weightedness, not once does it overwhelm the audience. It, in fact, dangerously runs the risk of underwhelming the audience — but that's if the viewer isn't able to catch on to the many innuendos of female character assassination, among other things.
Not just gender equality at work, India's caste system and local journalism are all woven into the story. And this brings us to Anuj Sanghvi (played by Rajpal Yadav). The persuasive and determined journalist who keeps probing the investigation findings and even pesters Mahima to no end, turns the corner in the second half of the movie.
And the movie offers a glimpse into the behind-the-closed-doors merging of a government agency and a journalist. Calm down, this is not your typical heavy-handed Deep Throat episode from All the President's Men kind of a deal, but nonetheless, this unique and even niche look into the world of a local journalist makes it a refreshing watch.
Although the movie begins with and anchors on Inspector Mahima and the jackfruits, the swift and smooth manoeuvre to the supporting characters that come along, such as Anuj among others, help to meat up the script.
And then there are the stunning and understated (or animated) performances of Sanya Malhotra, Vijay Raaz and Rajpal Yadav (with a very strong supporting cast of actors) to seal the deal, coupled with good cinematography.
Light on the feet (and with only two songs!) – the script and the acting performances make it an enjoyable watch, particularly if you are devouring jackfruits on a Friday to lift the spirits during the umpteenth power outage in this summer. And, at the very end, the viewer gets to solve a case of missing jackfruits.