‘Cargo’ the 2020 sci-fi film which marks the directorial debut of Arati Kadav, is 100 minutes too long. The total runtime is 113 minutes. I finished watching the film about a minute ago and my head feels a little numb due to the boredom it experienced.
Let me start with the plot – it’s set in 2027, where the human species co-exists with demons (yes, this science-fiction flick combines mythology too) in peace. Our protagonist is Prahasta (Vikrant Massey) a demon who is responsible for the transition of mortals to the afterlife. This work is done in a very cool space-ship and the dead people undergoing the process are simply referred to as ‘cargo’.
Honestly, on paper, this might have sounded like a very interesting concept, but on the screen, it absolutely did not work, at least not for me. Within the first 10 minutes I was beginning to lose my patience, a rare occurrence. The makers attempt to do witty fictional parallels which was just mundane; for example – the first ‘cargo’ in the film is a magician, fashioned along the lines of famous Indian illusionist PC Sorcar. There is a Steve Jobs rip off who gives a TedX type talk on the work of demons and their world.
The biggest problem with ‘Cargo’ is that the makers overload the script with too many themes. There was this very forced fake shouting down Prahasta gets from a senior for requesting a male assistant. “Women are making a lot of progress, if Men have reached Mars, women have reached Jupiter,” his senior fumes at him. It looked like the writer decided “hey, we should have some feminist bit about how women can do everything men can!” and then squeezed that random scene in. Idiotic.
If one had to pick a central theme for this one, then it is perhaps loneliness. Prahasta has been doing his job of transitioning humans for 75 long years, all alone, in space. He speaks to his team via internet or what looks like an old radio with a screen equipped for live video calls.
Things are supposed to shake-up for him when a new assistant Yuvishka (Shweta Tripathi) is sent up the spaceship. But even the new livelier entrant is not able to pick up the tempo of this depressingly dreary film. It’s like everybody needs some glucose or red-bull or some damn drug to infuse a little life in them.
After 47 minutes, I just wanted to stop watching it. It was too drab. I couldn’t understand if they wanted it to be a satire, because there was neither any wit or any humor in any of the scenes. The script writers have done such a shoddy job, that they should be given an award for ‘exceptionally bland writing’. Also there are too many loopholes, but since I don’t want to give any spoilers, I will write only about one instance. The viewers are told and shown that part of Prahasta’s job is to heal any physical damage the mortal may have suffered during death, before they can be sent to the afterlife. So his ‘cargo’ is usually damaged, with wounds, burns or whatever physical failing that led to their demise. But when a wedding party dies in a bus crash, all of them continue to play and dance when they arrive at the ‘after-life’ space station. Did they all miraculously die without any injuries in a bus crash? Give me a break. There are many other glaring mistakes like this throughout the course of the film.
As far as the actors are concerned, well, they were just very mediocre. Shweta Tripathi as Yuvishka even seemed annoying at points. Konkona Sen Sharma has an almost blink and miss cameo. The others were all forgettable in their little bits too.
The climax was unexpected, but that doesn’t mean it was any good. It wasn’t even like a sudden turn of things, like the rest of the movie, the climax was sloooooooooooow, even if unpredictable. It has an unconventional happy ending, but by then viewers like me couldn’t care. I feel like if there was a race between ‘Cargo’ and a tortoise, the tortoise will win.
“Chutiyaap” I exclaimed as the credits rolled in. There is no English equivalent for the word, so sorry, I won’t be able to explain the word. “Fuckery” might come close, but it’s not really a dictionary word yet.