Director Arati Kadav on how Indian folktales inspired her to make the sci-fi comedy Cargo
An Indian sci-fi comedy film has been making waves in the international film festivals circuit. Cargo starring Vikrant Massey and Shweta Tripathi, directed by debutante Arati Kadav, was supposed to premiere at the SXSW Film Festival in the US on March 13. However, the festival stands cancelled due to the COVID-19 scare. But this doesn’t mean that Cargo has lost an opportunity.
The film is also scheduled to be screened at the renowned SciFi Film Festival in Australia in August. Though an Indian language movie, Arati’s small-budget project has been winning hearts with its innovative storyline and technicallyadvanced production values.
Most importantly, for the director, her childhood fascination with Indian folk tales has translated to a film on the silver screen. “I wrote a lot of stories that were fantastical because I was majorly into fantasy tales while growing up. I heard a lot of Indian mythological stories and read Panchatantra and this was my initiation into the genre. As a storyteller, I preferred the typical folklore style of these magical tales. I had this idea in the back of my mind, and that is reflected in my work,” she says.
Arati who is an engineering graduate has made four short films — Uss Paar, Gulmohar, Time Machine and Reflections — before Cargo. “I really enjoy making short films. I feel more alive when I am shooting,” offers the director who has explored the subject of death in her debut feature film. The story is set in a spaceship named Pushpak 634A that comes close to the Earth every morning and waits for dead people. A lonely devil astronaut, Prahastha, has been working in the spaceship for many years and later, gets a female assistant. The spaceship doubles up as an immigration office for the dead, and people who have just died on Earth are called Cargos.
Talking about how she stumbled upon the idea of death for her film, she says, “I got this idea in 2017. I was travelling somewhere and was at the immigration. I wondered what it would be like to have an immigration office in space for people who have died.” Although it sounds like a morbid story, the film has received positive reviews for its nuanced humour. Arati offers her perspective on how she approaches sci-fi genre to make her films relatable to the audiences. "Sci-fi in general features male-dominated storylines, not just in India but also the world over. But I realised that there are a lot of women and even filmmakers from the East who have a more layered approach to this genre, and their treatment is very fantastical and personal. I wanted to tell a personal story through Cargo," she says. The film is presented by Anurag Kashyap and Vikramaditya Motwane.