My recommendation this week is a chamber piece – Rajat Kapoor's SonyLIV Original Movie Kadakh, which was one of the most underrated films of 2020. Kadakh takes place over one day. It's Diwali. A young, couple Sunil and Malti are having a party. Alcohol has been ordered. Malti has bought fresh flowers. Their tastefully done apartment looks ready for the onslaught of their friends, colleagues and relatives. But then a stranger arrives at their door. And all hell breaks loose.
Over the course of the night, we get to know these people better and discover their soft spots – adultery, insecurity, lying, stealing, drunkenness, selfishness. Their camaraderie is tested to the breaking point. The firecrackers bursting in the background and the general air of festivity is in sharp contrast to the drama unfolding in the apartment. At one point, a gun is pointed. And a dead body puts a damper on the celebration.
The opening of Kadakh is among the best I've seen last year. Rajat establishes the apartment, an ordinary day and then punctures it with precision. Things go sour so quickly that we are hooked even before the opening credits have ended. Nothing in the film matches the skill of those first few minutes but Rajat, who also wrote the story, manages to sustain the tension and the laughs. In places, Kadakh feels contrived and farcical. In the second half, Sunil becomes Macbeth-like, seeing the dead body appear and throwing out fresh food because he smells something rotten. It's outlandish but it's not uninteresting.
Ravir Shorey as Sunil is solid and so are the rest of the actors – Mansi Multani, Kalki Koechlin, Shruti Seth who gets to have a meltdown, Cyrus Sahukar, Rajat himself who plays an aspiring author and my favorite – Manoj Pahwa who plays Malti's relative. Him and his wife drop in wearing masks because Chachi ji is afraid that there are too many germs out there. Clearly, they had advance notice about the pandemic. Kadakh begins with the message that it is an a-moral tale. Rajat doesn't judge his flawed characters. He just puts them in a cauldron and lets them boil. You can see Kadakh on SonyLIV.