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Cargo review: A quaint sci-fi film with humour and heart!

Cargo is worth a watch for the sheer originality and understated humour

Source: SIFY

By: Sonia Chopra

Critic's Rating: 3/5

Monday 14 September 2020

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Movie Title

Cargo review: A quaint sci-fi film with humour and heart!

Director

Arati Kadav

Star Cast

Vikrant Massey, Shweta Tripathi, Nandu Madhav

Sometimes a film is more an experience rather than a story with a definitive beginning, middle and end. A mix of many genres and thoughts, Cargo is to be savored patiently without expectations of logical conclusions.

It’s 2027 and demons and humans are now bound by a peace treaty. Gone are the days of fangs, weird costumes and preying on humans at night! The modern demons come in the more agreeable forms of Vikrant Massey and Shweta Tripathi (both actors are superb in the movie), and now help dead humans transition to the other side.

So Prahasta (Massey) has been in a spaceship that acts like a transitioning portal for the dead since decades, and is a hero back home on Earth. In case you’re wondering the choice of the odd name, it refers back to the mythological character Prahasta, who was Ravana’s chief commander of army. The spaceship is named Pushpak, neatly tying in more mythological references.

In the modern times, Prahasta is mild-mannered and gently bullied by his supervisor on Earth who calls his normal work schedule a ‘light day’. Endearing in his boring office clothes and constant chatter about his 137-year old marriage, the supervisor (a brilliant Nandu Madhav) also boasts of a superpower of being ‘almost invisible’.

It is befitting that an Indian sci-fi movie should focus more on the internal (emotions and spiritual angle) rather than the external (spaceship and technology).

In fact, the machines are hilariously rudimentary. In one of the film’s hilarious touches, Prahasta’s ‘healing machine’ used on dead people before they transition, is faulty and often give out a current. Stuck in space, what can he do but complain to the unmoved supervisor back on Earth?

What the supervisor does though is send him a demon assistant, the valedictorian of her college, Yuvishka (Tripathi). Bright-eyed and eager to learn, she also possesses super-natural healing powers. When Prahasta, who was both lonely and content in the spaceship, is suddenly sent an assistant, he doesn’t quite know how to react.

The film, written and directed by Arati Kadav, has you think back to several space films like Solaris, The Martian, Gravity, and Moon. But there hasn’t been a space film quite like this one— folding in mythology, existentialism, and dark humour. All this with a measured pace (which can get too slow at times), and with none of the urgency of films of this genre.

Interestingly, the film does not acknowledge the presence of any supernatural force apart from the demons. There is no mention of gods or other higher beings, and there is no information given on what happens to the deceased once they transition. Another fascinating aspect that’s a touch-and-go in the film is the dismissal of karma. One wishes the film had dwelled deeper on these areas.

In one of my favourite scenes, one of the dead people that comes on the spaceship is a magician named Sorcar. As is mandatory for all deceased to be transitioned, Sorcar has to submit his earthly possessions which means endless ribbons emerging from his sleeve and a pigeon.

Then you have a marriage party, a much-in-love older couple, a man who escapes death twice only to die later in a bus accident.

Then, there’s a singer called Shurpanakha, a kid with superpowers called Ghatothkach, and a journalist (better behaved than our current blood-thirsty ones) who calls to ask one of our characters for spaceship news.

The marrying of a space movie with mythology and humour is truly a unique one. The film does get a bit slow in places, but it’s worth a watch for the sheer originality and understated humour.

(Cargo can be viewed on Netflix)

 

Sonia Chopra is a critic, columnist and screenwriter with over 15 years of experience. She tweets on @soniachopra2

 

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