From the very first Star Wars-like prologue you see at the beginning of the new Netflix movie Cargo, they are making it very clear for us that the accuracy and logic aren’t really the focus of the movie. Directed by Arati Kadav, Cargo is an odd film that manages to find a connection with you, despite having a huge chunk of its narrative in an alien setup. Cargo uses the texture of a dark humor fantasy to depict a lot of human emotions like loneliness, regret, the purpose of life, etc.
So the story is set in 2027. Rakshas’ and Humans now have a peace treaty and the humans who die on earth are sent to spaceships named Pushpak were their memories will get wiped and will have a rebirth on earth again. Our story is about Prahastha, a Rakshas who has been managing Pushpak 634 for almost 75 years. His lonely mundane life in the spaceship and what all changes happen when they assign an assistant named Yuvishka for him is what we get to see in Cargo.
So the title Cargo is actually what the dead people are called in the movie. All Prahastha do every day is waiting for Cargos and doing the routine procedure of detaching them from their stuff and wiping their memory before sending them back. Finest of films that have explored the idea of being futuristic or future driven have this quality of not being so vocal about the flashy setup. Movies like Blade Runner or even the Netflix series Black Mirror works for you in an internalized way because they are doing a deep dive into the human psyche when the external world becomes totally different from what we know. Even though Cargo is in a more satiric dark humor space, one can’t really ignore the fact that it was also about those characters that we see on screen.
This is Arati Kadav’s first feature film and I must say her imagination is crazy and captivating. These are really flimsy themes that can give a hard time for the viewer to find connect and I feel that’s where the movie sort of scored. Like I mentioned in the beginning, there are these minimal lines in the movie that talks about the regret of characters about the life they lived, the thirst for recognition, and the conflict of all this eventually contributing to the ultimate angst about existence. The detail we get to see here is very interesting. This isn’t a completely absorbing experience as we can sense major emotional shifts are happening in the movie without giving us that feeling of anxiety. But there are so many crafty elements in the making that you tend to ignore these issues.
The production design is extremely minimal here and yet it feels sufficient. We are given this idea that Prahastha is a man whose thoughts are outdated and have that socializing issue within him. And the spaceship he has been managing is an embodiment of that. The screens, buttons, and every element in that set feels like from the era of Black and White Television. The cinematography largely uses static visuals to go in sync with the tempo of the movie and the cuts were also keeping it on that calmer tone. The emotional dilemma they face when some Cargos reach them are the points where the movie is expressing itself. Cargo also sheds light on how red taping will have its part in this particular scenario.
Coming to the performances, there isn’t too much here to talk about. Both Vikrant Massey and Shweta Tripathi are proven actors with some fabulous works in their respective filmography. Massey as the extremely introverted old school letter writing Prahastha is very convincing. The restricted body language and the voice modulation sort of makes you believe that this guy was there in that spaceship for almost 75 years. Shweta Tripathi’s character Yuvishka is somewhat the opposite. She has followers in social media, she is talking about her everyday activity, she wants to do something of her own, and that energy and the vulnerable moments in this journey were portrayed neatly by her. Nandu Madhav as Nitigya sir was a lovely character nobody will forget at the end of this movie. Some wonderful cameos are there from Konkona Sen Sharma, Biswapati Sarkar, Rohan Shah, Ritwik Bowmik, etc.
There is this Ted Talk-like scene at the beginning of the movie where a Rakshas is holding the talk and he shows how the demonized visual representation of the Rakshas has changed drastically. And in one scene Nitigya sir says that gender discrimination is now a criminal offense on Earth. Moments like this made me like the concept of Cargo and I will be looking forward to Arati Kadav’s future films just like the way I anticipate the movies of Rohith VS. Polishing is required, but the vision they have is pure and original.
Cargo uses the texture of a dark humor fantasy to depict a lot of human emotions like loneliness, regret, the purpose of life, etc.
Green: Recommended Film
Orange: Okay, Watchable, Experimental Films
Red: Not Recommended