Cargo 2020 Netflix Movie Review
First-time feature filmmaker. Woman.Wants to make a sci-fi indie. The fact that this film actually happened,and turned out the way it did, miraculous. Set in the near future, the year is 2027. Roaring 20's are back and better, because Manushya aur Rakshason keybeech mein, peace treaty sign ho gayi hai, which has enabled big leaps, not just for humanity and rakshasanity, but also for science. Interplanetary Space Organisations exist,Post Death Transition Services exist, jahaan when people die,they are beamed up to space ships as “cargo”, their bodies are healed, memories are wiped clean,and then they are sent back to earth for punarjanam. Toh even though yeh hai sab futuristic sci-fi,but it is as sarkari as they come. The whole set up is like security check-in at an airport,very procedure, mundane.
Machines are malfunctioning,people have been stuck doing their same jobs for years, the thought of bringing in new people with fresh ideas,is met with resistance. On the spaceship, helping people transitionis rakshas astronaut Agent Prahastha, who is been at it for 75 years. He’s joined by a young Agent Yuvishka laterand when that happens, things begin to change, which is what the movie is, joh Netflix par aayi hai. Writer director Arati Kadav,must be a mad, fun person to hang out with. One can tell just by the sheer conviction,with which she’s created this audaciously original and bizarre universe her characters exist in,kind of like Douglas Adams, Light. Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxyis a “trilogy in four parts”, about the red tape-ism and bureaucratic messengulfing space travel and life on other planets. Those books aren’t set in the future either, he just takes bizarre thingswhich are happening on earth like politics, organised religion,sporting events, dating, wars, and he sets them all in space, adding silly embellishments, like a guidebook for the entire galaxy, the importance of having your own towel,a super computer, an SEP field, which stands for Someone Else’s Problem.
When you apply and SEP to something,people ignore it and walk away. So, I don’t know how much Arati Kadavis inspired by Douglas Adams, if at all, but Cargo too has flashes of cheeky, but extremely poignant takeson human behavior like that. Prahastha, the character Vikrant Massey plays, in Hindu mythology this name comesfrom the leader of Ravan’s army against Ram. In this film there's also a character named Ramchandra,a popular reality TV show host, who claims to solve all your loneliness, troubles,by moving into your house, eating your food and literally invading your life. The space ships are called Pushpaks,which as everyone knows was Ravan’s flying aircraft, Prahstha’s handler, played by Nandu Madhav, is namedNitigya, literally translating to the know-er of policies. There are so many, deeply insightful, little-little details,just scattered across Cargo, used for comedic effect. For all Rakshas log, puberty ke time pey, sab ki bodies mein, apni individual unique powers na,develop hoti hain.
The know-er of policy has the power to vanish,but only a little over 86%, part of him is still visible to everyone. One man’s power is his inability to sleep and not be tired,so he is the night handler of the ship’s crew. Shweta Tripathi’s character, astronaut Yuvishka,is an empathetic, kind, deeply emotional person. With her powers, she’s able to heal people, literally. Arati Kadav ne bohot hi easter eggs se bhara hua,yeh universe banaya hai, jismein ghus kar mazey aa gaye. Rakshasa Bhavan Mahanagar building is also,Brihanmumbai Nagar Palika building, I’m sure every number, every bit of design in this film,has significance and meaning. Guest appearances from Konkona Sen Sharma, Hansal Mehta, Shlok Sharma,screenwriter Anjum Rajabali. A character who shows up for transitioning,his name is Bhavesh Joshi, a nod to Vikramaditya Motwane,who’s an executive producer on this film. And frankly it really is kaheen ki eent, kaheen ka roda,at-least according to the end credits of the film. Shlok Sharma and Anurag Kashyapare Arati Kadav’s co-producers, one of the producers Navin Shetty,is also the lead colorist of the film, filmmaker Megha Ramaswamy is the lyricistand singer of the only song in the film, the 80's synth pop style, mad fun track, “forget me not”. Despite all her friends comingtogether to make her film happen, Arati, i believe is fully aware,that doesn’t translate to a big production budget. Hence, futuristic tech finds no place in her film. It is a very old timey 80’s TV show set, with flickering,bulging convex screens, knobs, clunky manual devices, giving the landscape a silly stage play feel,clearly not caring about form, more than they need to.
Having said that, I found the substance,tiny bit lacking as well. Sure, the whole thing is satire onhow we lead our lives right now, the near future setting gives you,just enough perspective to reflect on current times, but, when it came to the central conflict of the story,I felt a lack of conviction. Hota kya hai, a slightly, jarring event occurs and within the same scene Yuvishka just declares,that her healing powers are gone, at which point the film turns from weird,but hilarious, to weird and sappy. Shweta Tripathy’s, Yuvishka,while an endearing presence on screen, she didn’t make room in my heart, for me to be invested in her character arc,and root for her to win. Same for Vikrant Massey,who has maximum screen time. Apart from the name, there is nothing very interesting,or novel about his character Prahastha. Its fun to see him interact with the bits and piecesput together by Mayur Sharma’s production design, but the attempt to give him a personality, fall short.
In one scene, Yuvishka asks Prahastha,“Kisi bhi cheez ka kya matlab hai”? Yeh hi existential savaal is the sensibility of the film,the outdated toy-like tech included, ki nothing means anything, lekin phir bhi, Arati Kadav has envisioned a future in hope. Its not very far away and doesn’t need very modern tech, or advances in science,smart phones work on space ship, which are propelled by,what look like giant fuel efficient rubber pumps. The earth has laws against gender discrimination.We're using science against generational andhwishwas. Cargo is a small but stupendous flight of fancy,actually brought to fruition, and isliye we absolutely must watch, shareand encourage this film as much as possible. Catch it on Netflix, to get away from the world for a bit,pun very much intended.