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Siraj Syed

Siraj Syed is the India Correspondent for and a member of FIPRESCI, the International Federation of Film Critics. He is a Film Festival Correspondent since 1976, Film-critic since 1969 and a Feature-writer since 1970. He is also an acting and dialogue coach. 



Netflix’s Kathal: The curious case of the two missing jackfruits and its serious, very serious ramifications

Netflix’s Kathal: The curious case of the two missing jackfruits and its serious, very serious ramifications

Firstly, it was not discovered by a man named Jack. Secondly, it is not a fruit, but a vegetable. Writer Ashok Mishra spent many years in north India and developed a taste for Kathal, which is the Hindi name for jackfruit. Jackfruit (Artocarpus heterophyllus) is an evergreen tree (family Moraceae), native to tropical Asia and widely grown throughout the wetland tropics for its large fruits and durable wood. The greenish unripe fruit is cooked as a vegetable, and the brown ripened fruit is eaten fresh for the sweetly acid but insipid pulp surrounding the seeds. The seeds are cooked and eaten locally. Jackfruit is the largest tree-borne fruit in the world, reaching up to 60 cm (about 2 feet) long and weighing up to 18 kg. Netflix had many on display as well as for consumption. Two of those that were shown weighed 15 kg each.

It was a first for me, not for consuming kathal, but attending a Netflix event. I had to travel a very long distance to attend, because I was already attending another whole day event very far away. Since this was my first Netflix event, I did not want to be late. The invitation for the trailer launch of the film Kathal said 2 pm, at the J.W. Marriott hotel, Juhu, Mumbai, and I made it by 2.05. Proceedings began at 3.30 pm, but luckily, ended by 4.15 pm. On a crowded stage were Ashok Mishra, Yashowardhan Mishra (Ashok Mishra’s son and debutant director), Shobha Kapoor, Ekta Kapoor, Guneet Monga, Achin Jain (all producers) and Sanya Malhotra, Anant V. Joshi and the ubiquitous Rajpal Yadav, who are members of the cast.

Putting in plugs for throughout, the compère (didn’t get his name) kept asking the men and women behind Kathal what was their favourite dish and what had they eaten for lunch that day. Absolutely no prizes for guessing. Ashok Mishra, who is known for his work with Shyam Benegal, said, in a lighter vein, that he wanted a vegetable to the point of focus in a film, something never done before, and that is what prompted him to write Kathal. Rajpal Yadav plays a nosey journalist in the film, while Sanya Malhotra and Anant V. Joshi play police officers. Anant V. Joshi, when asked whether he had eaten kathal before coming to the event, retorted, “I have a taken a bath with kathal”. Rajpal ribbed him, wanting to know how is it possible to bathe with kathal. Sanya Malhotra, Police Inspector Mahima, who is burdened with the onerous task of finding the two missing kathals, insisted that she had eaten kathal pickle before she came.

Anant confessed that he was overawed by his fellow actors, because they were so good and their improvisation used to have him in splits, which was against his character. He added that anybody would fall in love with the character played by Sanya, and that the viewers will also fall in love with her. Rajpal, known for playing buffoons, said something really deep, “We can be inspired by real in our reels, but nothing can replace the real thing. Media is regarded as the most important pillar in the what I call ‘master class’, and playing a journalist in this master class has made me very happy.” He was also delighted to be working with two generations, since Ashok Mishra and he were both part of Shyam Benegal’s unit, and now he was working with Ashok’s son, Yashowardhan. Sanya was thankful to Neha Saraf, a co-actor, who helped her get the Madhya Pradesh accent right. Initially, she was a bit off, but later she struck the right notes. She even demonstrated the accent.

A journalist asked Sanya, “Playing a cop is part of every actor’s wish list, especially when it comes to female actors. Was it in your wish list too?” Sanya replied, “I did not know that actors have a wish list and that No. 1 on that list is to play a cop. I consider myself lucky that Guneet gave me this character, right after Pagglait (2021, produced by the same producers who have made Kathal), and I have fallen in love with the film in totality.” The plot of the film involves two missing kathals, of 15 kg each, apparently stolen from the home of an MLA, and instructions from higher ups to the police to find them, at all costs. All the while, a journalist is on his job, looking for a scoop. Also in the cast are Vijay Raaz, Brijendra Kala, Gurpal Singh, Govind Pandey, Ambrish Saxena and Raghuvir Yadav. Netflix will stream the film from 19th May.



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About Siraj Syed

Syed Siraj
(Siraj Associates)

Siraj Syed is a film-critic since 1970 and a Former President of the Freelance Film Journalists' Combine of India.

He is the India Correspondent of and a member of FIPRESCI, the international Federation of Film Critics, Munich, Germany

Siraj Syed has contributed over 1,015 articles on cinema, international film festivals, conventions, exhibitions, etc., most recently, at IFFI (Goa), MIFF (Mumbai), MFF/MAMI (Mumbai) and CommunicAsia (Singapore). He often edits film festival daily bulletins.

He is also an actor and a dubbing artiste. Further, he has been teaching media, acting and dubbing at over 30 institutes in India and Singapore, since 1984.

Bandra West, Mumbai


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