“Nothing is more important than finding these jackfruit right now.”SP Angrez Singh Randhawa
A satire of Indian government masquerading as a light-hearted comedy, Kathal (“jackfruit”) is entertaining but lacks the requisite bite to make its satire as potent as it ought to be. Its intentions regarding political influence over the police are clear from the premise alone, as a police department is forced to investigate the theft of two jackfruit from a politician, sidelining more serious investigations. The film’s subtitle “A Jackfruit Mystery” is no doubt a play on Netflix stablemate Knives Out, a fitting reference to that franchise’s class commentary. Caste prejudice is shown to be rife within the police force, in their treatment of the public, in which crimes are investigated, and in the relationships between officers. Sanya Malhotra is superb as the accomplished Basor inspector instructed to recover the fruit, her nuanced portrayal favouring the dramatic over the comedic as Mahima’s internal conflict leads her deceptively to link the theft to a missing persons case in order to investigate both. Her romantic relationship with a higher caste subordinate provides Kathal with an emotional core and the conflict that forces both to evaluate their positions within the organisation. Fittingly for its title, food also forms a recurring theme of Kathal, in the way it can create connections between people as well as demonstrating relationships of control and dependency. Kathal covers a range of important topics and perhaps light tone is a necessary way to convey its message to a wider audience but it undeniably dilutes its potency if not its reach.