Review Of Cargo: A Confident Step Forward For The Indian SciFi Genre

Cargo: Loading Up A Psychological & Meta-Commentative SciFi…

The film Cargo has been creating a lot of buzz, ever since it screened at last year’s MAMI. In all the years that I have followed Indian cinema, there have been a lot of attempts at the Sci-Fi genre but the success rate has been very low. Either they lack the vision or the scope to dabble with the subject at hand. Once I heard there was this low budget film coming out, that is dealing with heady Sci-Fi ideas, that somehow manages to incorporate Indian mythology into its premise, I was immediately hooked. The film is finally out on NetFlix, here’s my take on it.

Angels & Demons -- And Some Sharp Allegorical Observations In Between…

The film begins by showing us a day in the life of a Rakshas (demon) called Prahastha (played by Vikrant Massey), who lives on a spaceship. His job is to transition recently deceased humans onto the after-life. It is sometime in the undefined future where humans and demons have made peace with each other. The demons in this world are born with special abilities, not very dissimilar to mutants. While Prahastha is content with his monotonous existence, his management decides to assign him an assistant in the form of Yuvishka (played by Shweta Tripathi). Yuvishka is an extremely optimistic chirpy soul, contrasting the practical yet empathetic Prahastha. The collision of these two strong personalities’ philosophies and ideologies forms the rest of the film that deftly manages to tackle complex themes like mortality, redemption, empathy, identity, grief, and isolation.

Arati Kadav For The Win…

I had previously seen writer/director Arati Kadav’s work in the form of her whimsical short film ‘Time Machine’ (now available on Mubi). She even leaves a wink and a nod to that short film within this film too, keep a lookout for that. She manages to translate that optimistic spunk into her feature film debut by somehow perfectly balancing the whimsy with the right amount of pathos needed to tell this heart-warming and enlightening story. The film is very ambitious in its scope and the ideas it wants to tackle. I could see seeds of ideas taken from classics like Duncan Jones’s Moon, Tarkovsky’s Solaris, Koreeda’s Afterlife, and of course Star Trek, while also managing to stay true to its own essence. While the writing is tight and very crisp, I found the world-building to be a little clunky which can easily be overlooked by the engrossing story in front of us.

Cargo | Trailer | Vikrant Massey, Shweta Tripathi | 9 September

The Film Looks Absolutely Gorgeous…

The performances are uniformly good, including the extremely fun cameos that I don’t want to spoil. Especially the uber quirky deaths that had me rolling on the floor at certain points. Vikrant Massey and Shweta Tripathi hit it out of the park here. Vikrant as the stoically experienced professional perfectly contrasts Shweta’s empathetic optimism and vice versa. But the real winners in my books here are the Art Direction by Amish Chauhan and cinematography by Kaushal Shah. The look of the film is just gorgeous with the perfectly composed shots of the uncomfortably sterile yet beautifully put together set. There is thought put into every prop, every color in the frame, and every carefully composed movement of the camera.

In conclusion, Cargo is a super cool sci-fi film, compact in size but vast in scope that manages to deftly incorporate Indian Mythology onto a sci-fi canvas. All the while telling an extremely heartfelt human story that will touch everyone. Do check out this rare gem at the earliest, if that sounds interesting to you.