Mumbai, 19 Jun 2020 19:45 IST
The feature, written and directed by Rajat Kapoor, seems to be inspired by Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope (1948) but also goes on to explore frayed relationships between friends and family.
Rajat Kapoor’s Kadakh is an ‘a-moral tale’, we are informed at the beginning of the film. It opens almost innocuously with Ranvir Shorey’s Sunil preparing for a Diwali party later in the day. The doorbell reveals a stranger on his doorstep who wishes to discuss something in private.
Their awkward introduction grows into an even more strange meeting between the two. You see, the stranger is Raghav (Chandrachoor Rai), husband of the woman, Chhaya (Palomi Ghosh), Sunil is having an affair with. At first, he is calm, but Raghav quickly grows agitated and disturbed as he discusses the affair with Sunil. Raghav has already pulled out a gun and, pushed to the brink of despair, he takes his own life.
A horrified and scared Sunil takes stock of the situation and covers it up. He has no choice; his wife Malti (Mansi Multani) and their guests begin to drop in, one by one. The first half of Kadakh is suspenseful as we, along with Sunil, watch as the day goes from bad to worse. Like in Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope (1948), the body is stuffed in a box and it’s only a matter of time before someone notices that Sunil is behaving odder than usual.
The drama’s second half focuses on the group of friends who have gathered to celebrate Diwali. There is single mom Paro (Nupur Asthana), couples Yogesh (Cyrus Sahukar) and Alka (Shruti Seth), Rahul (Rajat Kapoor) and Sheetal (Tara Sharma Saluja), and Joshi (Sagar Deshmukh) who is bringing the main dish of the night, mutton cooked by him.
The party grows loud and raucous, sometimes comedic and later just tense, as Sunil’s office group joins them, along with the aforementioned Chhaya. A vase is broken, Joshi brings a new friend from France, Francoise Marie (Kalki Koechlin), who feels the house has a bad vibe, and Malti’s uncle and aunt (wearing N95 masks, no less!) drop in unexpectedly.
As day turns into night, Sunil’s anxiety grows and mood darkens. He has a corpse stashed somewhere in the house, and he can’t get a moment’s peace. His guilty conscience begins to weigh in on him. Shorey enacts this desperation with ease; his life is slowly falling apart around him and he is not sure whom to count on. “Who the hell are these people?” he tells Malti.
The rest of the ensemble cast, too, from Deshmukh to Seth to Sahukar, and even Kapoor himself, chip in nicely, showing us their characters and what drives them. Koechlin has a small but key cameo as she pops in and out of the doomed party. Multani shows Malti’s strength as she comes to realize certain truths about herself and her marriage; she just didn’t notice the cracks before.
Kapoor stations the action in one area for most of the film, so that when it eventually moves away, it has the jarring effect it is supposed to. The production design by Meenal Agarwal neatly places the clues for the audience to pick up on — a book prominently placed behind Sunil is titled The Body. Rafey Mahmood’s camera is, at first, still, but later it captures the chaos of the new year that begins on a very bad note.
While Kadakh doesn’t give us all the answers we might need, it does explore the already unravelling relationships on display between the once tight-knit group of friends. Kapoor exposes the faces we have to put forward, both in public and private. At the end, we leave the characters in extremely uncertain places, where solutions aren’t necessarily forthcoming.
SonyLIV is now streaming Kadakh.
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