Rating: *** ½
In Indian cinema, particularly in Hindi cinema, genuinely funny satires are hard to find. Kathal is surprisingly bracing and endearing. It is not your run-of-the-mill type of desperate-to-please smalltown quirky satire, but a thoughtfully written intelligent piece of cinema to which every actor gives his best shot.
Kathal celebrates the silliness of power-drunk politics when Vijay Raaz(as glib and glorious as ever) a local MLA in a small dusty rusty crusty town in North India, loses his prized kathals from their tree. The entire police police force is deputed to find the missing fruits.
It is all hilariously inappropriate, and Saniya Malhotra’s cop-act as Mahima Basor, and her subtle smirk says it all.Her frown breaks into a twinkle whenever she is next to her subordinate Saurav (played with a jaunty innocence by Anant Joshi).The ongoing romance between Mahima and her junior is one of the valued assets of this comely comedy.
But this isn’t about the laughter of triviality being given administrative priority. Kathal tears through the riproaring surface to reveal the tragic and terrifying emptiness of caste politics .A girl disappears from the village.And I thought I was back in the kingdom of Dahaad which we visited on Prime Video just a week ago.
The same bureaucratic apathy to the crime of disappearing ladies, except that here in Kathal there is no serial killer on the prowl. The remarkably risible Raghuvir Yadav shows up belatedly as the unlikely kidnapper, as we come close to the climax of a tale that would have ended up in chaos in lesser hands.And Rajpal Yadav is near-brilliant as a smalltown investigative journalism who reveals a conscience under his scoop-hungry personality.
Writers Ashok Mishra and Yashowardhan Mishra and director Yashowardhan Mishra know exactly where this is heading to. Amidst the precincts of a perky pandemonium there lurks a grim message on caste politics. Like Sonakshi Sinha in Dahaad, Saniya Malhotra plays a cop who has risen from an unprivileged class.
The upper caste snobs just can’t stand her power projection. There ensues several deeply disturbing yet amusing encounters with casteists.
Kathal is a earnest attempt to bring forth the double standards of a power-hungry society and an an administration that favours the privileged classes. It is a film that must be seen for its stellar scripting and performances and for bringing in a sense of fun to a grave social issue without trivializing it.