MUMBAI — The film is a roller-coaster: not the pun in the tag-line’s hyphen. From a shocker beginning to a shocker, even macabre end, what lights up “Kadakh” is the very organic atmosphere of a Diwali party. Rajat Kapur’s splendid and deceptively-simple script and direction makes the atmosphere almost real. After all, we see a motley crowd of upper middle-class couples, families and singles coming together for a Diwali bash that would be normal with all the flippant conversations, the jokes, the card games, the unexpected guests who come in, the calculated and oh-so-formal bonhomie, in short, the works.
So what’s different? Only the fact that in the house, a dead body lies hidden.
Where did that come from? An unexpected pre-party visitor, Raghav (Chandrachoor Rai), gradually gets hysterical and shoots himself because the apartment owner (and later party host) Sunil (Ranvir Shorey) was having an affair with his wife Chhaya (Palomi Ghosh). Sunil’s wife Malti (Mansi Multani) is happily out somewhere, and by the time she returns, he has hidden the body, cleaned up and made up a story about a depressed employee who has killed himself.
And then the guests start piling in, and piling on. And even a card game is played on the very wooden chest (which is dragged out into the drawing room for convenience by the guests without so much as the host’s by-your-leave!) in which the body is concealed. There is a red herring about an elderly guest’s extra-sensitive sense of smell, and the dead man’s wife also comes to the party as she feels her (now missing) hubby might have met Sunil as he has come to know about their affair.
Another unexpected friend (of another guest) is a French girl (Kalki Koechlin), who can read people’s faces. We also have an author (Rajat Kapur) of a book that is finally going to be published and his wife (Shruti Seth), a typical overbearing successful friend (Cyrus Sahukar) and others.
Sunil and Malti have vaguely planned on disposing off the body after the party is over. But, of course, it does not work out that way. And amid this volatile situation there is black comedy, a sense of betrayal and a culmination with a macabre finale.
Friendships, relationships, loyalty, human character, aggression, moods, social decorum—everything is inspected and tested in this riveting character study that lacks the atmosphere of a thriller but still makes you want to wait and know what is going to happen. The end, typically from this writer-director, is the least you can expect both in terms of the climax and post-climax.
Technically accomplished, the film has a decent and different background score (Sagar Desai), and Kapoor scores in his lines (additional ones from Cyrus Sahukar) and the quick turns in the script. An hour into the crisp 90 minute film, the viewer will feel he is a part of the party too, as everything is so real, even the few spats and hysterics.
An ensemble cast puts in very natural performances, and Shorey, Multani, Kapur, Sahukar, Seth and Koechlin need special mention along with Nupur Asthana as the aggressive Paro and Sagar Deshmukh as Joshi. Manoj Pahwa and Yamini Das are a very lovable older couple who are unwanted guests. Palomi Ghosh has little to do, but Chandrachoor Rai as her husband steals the show during his brief appearance.
This is a macabre satire that should be enjoyed at face-value with the option of ruminating on the deeper things it says, for those (pseudo-) intellectually-inclined. It is not only the FIRST riveting drama I have seen as a direct-to-digital film release, but the first good movie in a long, long time.
And if you are interested, “Kadakh” means “centerpiece.”
Produced by: Dinesh Kasana & Rajat Kapur
Written & Directed by: Rajat Kapur
Music: Sagar Desai
Starring: Ranvir Shorey, Mansi Multani, Rajat Kapur, Cyrus Sahukar, Shruti Seth, Manoj Pahwa, Yamini Das, Palomi Ghosh, Nupur Asthana, Abhishek Sharma, Chandrachoor Rai, Kalki Koechlin & others