Kadakh movie review: Rajat Kapoor's dark comedy is an 'amoral tale' about a motley group of flawed characters

Rajat Kapoor's seventh feature film Kadakh starts off with a man who is confronted by a stranger on his affair with his wife. But there is lot more to uncover.

Pratishruti Ganguly June 18, 2020 16:52:13 IST

3.5/5

Kadakh, actor-filmmaker Rajat Kapoor's seventh feature film comes at a peculiar juncture. At a time when the entire nation is reeling under the death of Sushant Singh Rajput, Kadakh, which was supposed to be screened in 2018 at the 20th edition of the Jio MAMI Mumbai Film Festival, seems almost prophetic, conjuring up a scenario where onlookers would turn soothsayers, naysayers, self-serving critics, and opinion-makers, with abject disregard for the deceased.

Kadakh movie review Rajat Kapoors dark comedy is an amoral tale about a motley group of flawed charactersA still from Kadakh

Kapoor's fictional tale about the oddities of human nature that surface only when shit hits the fan has thus unwittingly become a reflection of the times. Defending the motley group of characters in his film, Kapoor had once said that he likes all of them. "None of them are bad people," he said. "Grey maybe, even selfish. But I guess that's human nature."

And perhaps this is why the film hits so close home despite it not being very concerned with putting a moralistic standpoint across. As a matter of fact, the opening credits of the film begin with the message "a-moral tale."

The film begins with a surprise visit. Sunil (Ranvir Shorey), an upwardly mobile Delhi resident has an unusual start to his busy morning when an unknown person rings the doorbell of his posh apartment in a suburban neighbourhood. Raghav (Chandrachoor Rai), the guest introduces himself, promptly enters the house on the pretext of discussing something that concerns both of them dearly. Sunil, preoccupied with his plans of organising a Diwali party for his friends, is understandably disgruntled with this unexpected visit. However, Sunil’s disinterest quickly turns into mortal fear when Raghu discloses that he is the husband of Chhaya (Palomi Ghosh), the woman Sunil has been having an affair with at office.

Kadakh movie review Rajat Kapoors dark comedy is an amoral tale about a motley group of flawed characters

A still from Kadakh

Sunil tries to reason with the man he swiftly gauges is unravelling. Desperate to convince him that the affair was not a serious one, he blurts out, “It meant nothing, it was just sex.” This pushes Raghu further over the edge when he draws out a pistol from his satchel. In the heat of the moment, Raghu fires the pistol, accidentally killing himself.

As if this was not bizzare enough a scenario, Kapoor amps the stakes up a few notches, as guests start to trickle in, prompting Sunil and his unsuspecting wife Malti (Mansi Multani) to shove the body inside a decorative casket in their bedroom.

The rest of the film is about the events of the fateful night, where a cacophonous lot occupies every inch of their 2BHK apartment, drinking, cooking, gambling, and celebrating – even as a dead body hides inside the house.

Sunil and Malti’s friends — Alka (Shruti Seth), Paro (Nupur Asthana) Joshi (Sagar Deshmukh) Rahul (Rajat Kapoor), and Sheetal (Tara Sharma) — with their quirks and quacks, form the backbone of the film. Yogesh (Cyrus Sahukar) is a motivational speaker who does not spare a moment to be condescending towards his friends. Alka, his occasionally volatile wife, prefers to douse herself in pints of beer than dole out unnecessary life advice. There is Rahul, an author who is waiting with bated breath for the release of his debut novel, and his wife Sheetal, who is secretly unsure of her husband’s potential. Joshi and Paro have both recently divorced, and are trying to make sense of their single status.

Kadakh movie review Rajat Kapoors dark comedy is an amoral tale about a motley group of flawed characters

A still from Kadakh

Kapoor uses his characters and their interpersonal interactions, whether Yogesh advising Rahul to secretly buy out his own books to create a buzz, or Paro taking offense at Joshi’s jokes, coupled with the ambient noise of the crackers bursting outside or the gramophone blasting old jazz music, to brew a mind-numbingly sonorous chaos, almost too queasy to breathe. Amplified manifold by the confines of the house, this chaos mirrors the chaos inside Sunil’s mind. Guilt-ridden and petrified that his secrets may come tumbling out any second, Sunil feels increasingly alienated inside his own house. The irony is piercing – it is the festival of lights, but a pall of discomfort hangs heavy in the air; the house is crammed, but Sunil feels more isolated than ever.

He goes into a Lady Macbeth-esque downward spiral, throwing away freshly-made food that he thinks smells rotten and hysterically screaming at visions of Raghu. His puzzled friends spare a moment to break from their card game to look at Sunil, and again resume their game. It is their collective apathy towards their erratic friend that makes Sunil’s discomfort even more acute.

This simmering tension threatening to burst forth finds its culmination at unexpected junctures in the movie — when an uninvited guest Francoise Marie (Kalki Koechlin) — accidentally knocks a Vietnamese vase off, breaking it into pieces. Or when Marie reveals she can read people’s minds, or when Chhaya turns up at the party.

It is to Kapoor’s credit that despite a premise — of hiding a dead body inside the house with guests outside— been explored in several films, including Alfred Hitchcock’s 1948 thriller Rope or Super Deluxe, Kadakh never charts familiar territories. It almost plays with the audience’s expectation, setting the barrel rolling, and then bringing it to a screeching halt, only to shift its gaze onto some other innocuous occurrence in some other part of the house.

Kadakh movie review Rajat Kapoors dark comedy is an amoral tale about a motley group of flawed characters

A still from Kadakh

The chanced revelation of the body, the crux of the drama, is where all hell breaks loose. It is scary and funny in equal measure, as these people wrack their brains to figure out how to escape the rut, passing judgments on how everyone has problems but they do not go about “blowing their brains out, that too on Diwali night, and in someone else’s house” or opining on how the living, in this case, are more “bechara” (in a sorry state) than the dead, because “yeh to nikal gaya, hum sab ko fasakar" (he has left, leaving us behind to deal with trouble). These exchanges are meant to be discomfiting, and almost makes you feel a little guilty for breaking into peels of laughter because of the sheer outrageousness.

The climax is arguably the most entertaining part of the film, but Kadakh takes its sweet time to reach this point. Even with its 95-minute runtime, it is likely to feel unnecessarily drawn out in parts.

Kadakh is a rare film that changes gears from being a thriller, a dark comedy to an out-an-out macabre to a subtle commentary on society to a human story. But Kapoor does this without a shred of sermonising or patronisation.

He never really lets his audience comfortably settle in, deliberately thrusting them into the shoes of our agonised protagonist. You oscillate between scorning him for cheating on his ever-trusting wife, and feeling sorry for the misfortune that has befallen him.

His other characters are also equally flawed, yet they are invested with so much realism that rather than othering them for their drawbacks (we have done it for far too long, segregating heroes from villains, virtues from vice, us from them), we question our own actions. And this is perhaps where the greatest strength of Kadakh lies, in its ability to masterfully blend the tragic, the comic, and the contemplative, all in singular moments.

Rating: ***1/2

Kadakh is now streaming on SonyLIV.

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