Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

By Sneha Jaiswal (Twitter | Instagram)

Small-town cop Mahima Basor is fresh from the triumph of catching a most-wanted criminal, but her senior is quick to take credit for it in front of the media. Mahima doesn’t mind the snub but is stumped when she is forced to lead an absurd investigation into the case of two missing “kathal” (jackfruit). They were stolen from the garden of a powerful politician who wants them back at any cost.

Directed by Yashowardhan Mishra, who co-wrote the script with Ashok Mishra, the 2023 Netflix film “Kathal: A Jackfruit Mystery” stars Sanya Malhotra as protagonist Mahima Basor. She faces the challenge of navigating through a lackadaisical political and police system to focus on real issues instead of chasing a jackfruit thief. She is joined in the comical case by her junior cop boyfriend Saurabh Dwivedi (Anant Joshi), constable Kunti Parihar (Neha Saraf), and the lazy, corrupt constable Badri Prasad Mishra.

The film begins with a fun chase sequence where Mahima successfully honey-traps and captures a criminal. Vijay Raaz perfectly portrays the corrupt caricature of MLA Munnalal Pateria, who puts the entire police force in his region on a mission to find his precious kathal. Sanya Malhotra shines in her subtle and likable portrayal of honest cop Mahima, who is quick on her feet and refuses to bend for the powerful. Rajpal Yadav plays local journalist Anuj Sanghvi whose constant curiosity to get ‘scoops’ leads to their own set of problems and twists.

As Mahima and her team start investigating the scene of the crime, the kathal tree, with complete earnestness, treating it no less than a murder case, the plot promises to deliver a hilarious comedy romp. However, the daunting runtime of 1 hour and 55 minutes seems too ambitious as the jokes aren’t riotous, so the relaxed slow pace threatens to become tiresome. However, the story takes an unexpected turn as the minutes tick by, and “Kathal” evolves into a social satire that attempts to explore caste barriers, class divides, and patriarchal systems that perpetuate the mistreatment of women as second-class citizens. But the writers continue to keep the movie’s mood relaxed and surprisingly don’t venture into dramatic speeches or an overtly emotional climax.

A talented cast keeps you invested in the story, and they are buoyed by the simple yet vibrant cinematography that beautifully complements the predominantly light-hearted tone of the tale.

It’s a 7 on 10 from me. Stream on Netflix.

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