There are very few sci-fi flicks that have spawned out of Bollywood, and they rarely ever become hits in India. This is not necessarily a reflection on the film, but the Indian audience just does not connect with these films. Cargo, with its incredibly odd-ball plot and a very refreshing take on everything under the sun comes out of the left field and is unlike any other film that you have ever watched.
Cargo takes place in Space, aboard a spaceship. The protagonist is a demon-astronaut responsible for transitioning the dead into afterlife, or reincarnation. It is just as disconcerting and strange as it sounds. The premise of the story takes bits and parts from the Indian mythology and scriptures, wherein the demons or Asuras are responsible for taking the dead to afterlife. Except in this strange science fiction film, the demons have signed a peace treaty with the humans and are engaged in a mutually beneficial arrangement where they help humans out in return for a peaceful existence in the society.
One of the best aspects of Cargo is that it fully embraces its quirkiness. To further accentuate it, they have thrown in superhuman powers for the characters as well – Like being able to heal, or throw things without touching them, or being able to disappear 87.5%. These powers have been incorporated into the plot well, however some areas have been rather unexplored. Cargo also has several aspects that make it very philosophical and deep; and conversely employing dark humor in a not so subtle manner. Questions that philosophers have been pondering over for centuries have been addressed and they just leave you as is. What is the point of living a virtuous life if you are going to die and fade into bupkis anyway?
The female lead of Cargo, fits the archetype of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl very well. She is the valedictorian of her university, is always bubbly and has moments of being incredibly clear, is very outspoken, and ultimately she is the one that makes the male protagonist see the light. The film is seemingly monotonous until her arrival, focusing on the banalities of the protagonists’ banalities; getting through the days, working, eating, etc. She arrives and suddenly there is a splash of color into his rather boring life, as she makes her own judgments and commits some mistakes along the way.
The script was written by debutante Arati Kadav, who is herself an engineer so the plot does not feel comically inaccurate despite being so far fetched. The concept of death and afterlife is explored very well. However, as several reports state there were budget constraints and it shows. The set is supposed to be inspired from 80’s machinery – with the massively thick TV’s and retro aesthetics. While it succeeds in making Cargo very endearing, cost cutting was apparent in some cuts. Now, I am not saying that their usage of ATM Machines as the spaceship’s complex thingamajig is a bad thing, I would say that it was very nifty of them.
Coming to the performances, there is hardly any complaint. When you are making a film on a tight budget, you have to pick your priorities. For Cargo, the priorities are set in the right place – the Cast. The cast is the accessory that pushes the plot and makes or breaks the film. There are many to begin with, with the primary cast consisting of only 3 people, and the rest being minor characters. The plot does not need many characters, and the ones that are highlighted as the primary characters did a really excellent job. The Cast consisted of Vikrant Massey as Prahastha, Shweta Tripathi as Yuvishka and Nandu Madhav as the unnamed supervisor on the other side of the screen.
The comedy is effortless. This is not a conventional setup, rather the plot replies on dark humor. The scenes where the characters transition from death are quite well executed – and rather funny. Overall, Cargo is a great film with several unique elements that makes the film stand out from anything you might have watched before. It is a definite watch for all the science fiction lovers, even if for the fun, quirky and refreshing plot.