Yashowardhan Mishra, a first-time filmmaker, claims his objective for “Kathal: A Jackfruit Mystery” was to explore sociocultural concerns in the interiors of central India via an absurdist comedy.
The protagonist of “Kathal” is Sanya Malhotra's Mahima Basor, a quick-on-her-feet police officer from a lower caste who is tasked with finding two premium jackfruits that go missing from a local politician's garden.
Mishra, who attended Mumbai's Mithibai College of Arts to study literature and public media, declared his commitment to using “a light-hearted satire” to shed attention on more serious social concerns. His short film “Mandi,” which is set in Nashik, is also well recognized.
'Kathal' has a lot to do with my unlearning and realizing my advantages as an upper caste guy. Because I consider the luxury of producing a film in and of itself, we have to reflect the reality of the world. I would (think) have utilized my position more effectively if I could use it to share the tales of others who are not as affluent, the rookie told PTI in an interview.
“Because the tone of the movie is so absurdist, we wanted to have that sense of alienation. Many things are so astounding in their absurdity. But they are essentially a consequence of what we have seen in our surroundings. As a result, it's put together like a jigsaw puzzle using several sociocultural factors specific to that region of the globe, he said.
The film was co-written by the Mumbai-based director and his father, two-time National Award winner Ashok Mishra, who collaborated with seasoned director Shyam Benegal on “Welcome to Sajjanpur”.
“I had a good understanding of that region of the globe. I decided to investigate a tale from there for my debut film, said Mishra, who was born to parents from Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra.
He said that “Kathal” was derived from the team's work in the mountainous Bundelkhand area, which is split between the states of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. The UP Police is represented in the police department, even though the movie is set in the fictitious town of Moba, he said.
“The police force that we are depicting here is essentially UP Police, but we didn't want to specifically locate it in a real place.”
A cherry on top was having a fantastic ensemble cast that included Malhotra, Vijay Raaz, Rajpal Yadav, Anant Joshi, Neha Saraf, Govind Pandey, and Shashi Ranjan.
“We wanted to explore as many different dynamics as we could while preserving the narrative's essence and making use of the intrapersonal dynamics that individuals have.
“Those dynamics can only be brought to life by the performers. The simple things that they do speak volumes more than anything stated in a text, in my opinion. I got the opportunity to work with such amazing performers who share my perspective on the world, he said.
The director of the film said that he wants to challenge “preconceived notions” about how the police force is often portrayed on television and in movies as idealized masculinity.
“The fact that they are such cruel individuals may be frightening at times. That may be seen as a generalization. We met officers who, in a sense, were “softer” than the stereotype we see on television, more feminine, and who expressed themselves rather than only talking about their procedures and jobs, he said.
Mishra said that he and his co-writer father had to constantly “check our male gaze” in order to produce Malhotra's Mahima.
“Mahima is intelligent but not flawless. She has a talent for solving problems with logic rather than force. Therefore, we sought to represent the cops as being like us. One of the female officers said, “We detest that the general public fears us. Please make sure we don't seem menacing if you're filming a movie, he said.
The director said he realized women police officers approach every issue with “a lot of empathy and a balanced outlook” after meeting several of them for “Kathal” research.
“They take their time making decisions on their cases. They aren't quite so pointless. The police force's men officers sometimes have a tendency to look at approaching objects with their masculine gaze.
“We met a wide variety of police officers because we wanted to get extremely close to the study we were attempting to follow. To construct this figure of Mahima, we gathered them all together to make a kind of bouquet.
Another plus was having Malhotra, whose work he had loved from “Dangal” through “Pagglait” and beyond.
“Even in 'Pataakha,' her comedic timing and her grasp of the local slang were astounding. She is able to transform herself into many personalities. We should meet Sanya, according to producer Guneet Monga. She expressed a great deal of empathy when we spoke about the movie. That changed everything, he said.
“Kathal” will begin streaming on Netflix on May 19 and was created by Sikhya Entertainment and Balaji Telefilms Ltd.