Filmmaker Arati Kadav’s Cargo – a Netflix NFLX India original – is all set to premiere next week, September 9, and it offers an interesting amalgamation of mythology and science-fiction genre, laced with some dark humor.
Cargo, starring actors Vikrant Massey, Shweta Tripathi, Nandu Madhav and Konkona Sen Sharma is Kadav’s debut. Aarati has written and directed the film. She takes the concept of “rakshas” (demons) from Indian mythology and infuses her story with modern technology and science fiction.
Cargo is about a demon – Prahastha (Massey), working at “Post Death Transitional Services” company is to help the dead traverse into what’s beyond. The lead character, Prahastha, is based on Prahastha “rakshas” (demon), who was Ravana’s maternal uncle, as per the Hindu epic Valmiki Ramayan. In Kadav’s film, the introduction of an assistant, Yuvishka (Tripathi) brings a conflict onboard – the entire action happens on a spaceship, named Pushpak 634A. As per Hindu mythology, Pushpak was Ravana’s vehicle.
About the fascination for mythology and Indian mythological symbols, Arati says, “Cargo is a tribute to the dense mythologies of the subcontinent, to our myths and our folklore. These myths shape our philosophies and ,in a way, inform the way we live. Narrative wise, we bring an element of “unreliable narrator” and an irreverence to space science fiction that is very rarely seen in space movies abroad. That’s because our roots lie in our grandmother’s stories, that were engaging but that also has blind spots and clear sense of them being a fable. “
About origins of the film, Kadav says she has been working on space science fiction for seven years. “I wanted a story that’s rooted in our own (Indian) culture. Growing up, I read a lot of stories from the Panchatantra. I was always attracted to mythological stories. It so happened that two of my ideas eventually came together and Cargo happened.”
Interestingly, Kadav is a Computer Science and Engineering graduate from IIT, Kanpur (Uttar Pradesh, India) who left a job at Microsoft MSFT to pursue her passion of filmmaking. Before her debut feature, Cargo, she made short film Time Machine – a science fiction about a home-grown scientist who makes a time machine from cardboards and stationery.
Cargo is co–produced by Kadav, Navin Shetty, Shlok Sharma and Anurag Kashyap. The film had its India premiere at the MAMI Film Festival 2019 under the spotlight section. Recently, it was also screened at the Shanghai International Film Festival.
As per Madeline Berg’s report in June, technology giants “are turning to India, the world’s second-largest movie market”. Netflix as well as Amazon are focusing on generating local content for India, to en-cash on the opportunity that the fan-following of Indians stars brings. To top it, India is a growing market for digital platforms. These factors come together to make streaming giants lining up for local original content for the platforms.