Debutante director Arati Kadav’s homegrown science-fiction film Cargo, picked up by Netflix after playing at SXSW and MAMI, is an innovative but inert mashup of Eastern ideas and Western storytelling. Like Masaan by way of Moon, Cargo is a film that explores themes such as reincarnation — or, more accurately, the corporatization of reincarnation — and caste, all coated in a layer of slick modern sci-fi.

But while it might seem refreshingly original here, in an industry that has mostly stayed away from the genre, Cargo could feel massively derivative to certain audiences. Moon, for instance, is a film whose influence can be felt in virtually every scene. Vikrant Massey’s character, a ‘rakshasa’ named Prahastha, is having the same sort of existential crisis that was slowly consuming Sam Rockwell’s miner in Duncan Jones’ film.

Cargo is a story of an astronaut Prahastha (Vikrant Massey) who works for Post-Death Transition Services, in space. It’s a sci-fi film in which mythology plays a crucial role, and hence, Massey is shown as the form of a demon that deals with the dead. But he isn’t bad. In the movie, people who die arrive in his spaceship. These people have no idea they’re not alive anymore. We all know death is sudden, and Arati has shown us that. These dead souls are called ‘Cargo’. Prahastha is joined by a female assistant Yuvishka (Shweta Tripathi) on the ship. She has the healing powers to fix the dead who have severe injuries on their bodies.

Vikrant Massey is in his excellent form. Does he ever disappoint? Not at all. He’s such an effortless performer that even when he gets annoyed, he comes across calm and composed. That’s just how his character was written, and he managed to present it well. Shweta Tripathi plays her part well. Her equation with Vikrant is good, but didn’t seem enough. Nandu Madhav’s character added the comedic element to this movie.

It may seem like it’s just another life and death movie, but it’s not. It sounds quite simple but Arati Kadav has explored many emotions, questions of existence, life and death with these two characters. There’s nothing normal in this movie. The Earth doesn’t just belong to humans. There’s a peace treaty signed between the Rakshasas and human beings to co-exist. People have superpowers, there’s icchadari naagin and a man with tail. Rest, you’ll have to watch the movie to understand how she made it possible for the existence of a world like this!

Arati Yadav has rightly managed to capture Prahastha’s life in space. The journey of an afterlife of a dead person entering as a Cargo in the space ship and going through a particular procedure to put an end to their existence is captured well. Kudos to how she managed to think to that extent because humans can’t think of death beyond hell and heaven!

There are a lot of silent moments in the movie. Some moments depict the loneliness, the pain of seeing the dead, the uncertainty of life for both the characters deal with. However,  there were several shots where the quiet moments made me disconnected from the story. The characters seem to be missing something in life.

Yet, Cargo isn’t a simple story of life and death; it raises a lot of questions regarding one’s journey on to Earth. Shweta Tripathi’s character asks essential questions about human existence to Vikrant Massey, and he answers it. But he truly gives answers to her as the movie reaches its climax.

The movie has its fair share of good moments, but tends to lose your attention. The pace is slow and sometimes, scenes are monotonous.

For a movie with a unique concept, the music has to be distinct. Shezan Shaikh has done a good job. A film like this doesn’t need songs in abundance, and the makers were aware of it.

Overall, Cargo might be a sci-fi plus mythology drama, but it’s not intense or heavy. You can watch it enjoying a bowl of popcorn without having to worry that it will make you think deeply to understand the story. While Arati Kadav’s imagination and creativity will impress you, the slow pace will fail to grab your attention throughout. Yet, give it a watch because you won’t easily see this kind of cinema soon in Hindi cinema.

Cargo releases on 9th September, 2020.

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