Kathal Riddle: To Eat or Watch?

July 17, 2023

As I was flipping channels, I accidentally stumbled upon a funny, off-beat kind of Hindi film, ‘Kathal’ on the online streaming platform, Netflix, recently and it made me to delve a bit deeper. It prompted me to share my thoughts with readers, who may have their own ideas and anecdotes.

For most of us hailing from the coastal Karnataka and not well conversant in Hindi, the name Kathal, may sound unfamiliar. But all of us know this fruit, Kathal as Jackfruit, which is supposed to be the largest tree fruits in the world, as Ponos in Konkani, Halasu in Kannada and Pelakkai in Tulu. Also, I understand it is known as Phanas in Marathi, Chakka in Malayam and Kothaal in Assamese.

Of course, we may find the tropical Jackfruit’s botanical name, Artocarupus Heterophyllus, quite a bit of mouthful.

Kathal is believed to have got its English name, Jackfruit, which is derived from its Portuguese name, Jaca, after the invasion of Portuguese in India.

As we know, jackfruit trees are found abundantly in India, especially the Karnataka’s coastal and malnad regions and Western Ghats, Kerala and other States as also in Sri Lanka.

Jackfruit trees, as we know, are of medium size, which can be grown in all seasons. The fruits are formed in the summer months and become big mainly during the monsoon season in the months June to August. Jackfruits come in different sizes ranging from the smaller varieties of around 1 kg to the bigger ones going up to 3.5 kgs and sometimes even as big as 10 kgs. There are instances of some jackfruits weighing up to 25 kgs, which of course results in some media coverage.

Exotic and tropical, jackfruit is savoured for its delicious sweetness. It is, however, green in colour when not ripe and turns light brown as it starts the ripening process. It spreads a strong fragrance when ripe. Not just the humans, but even animals like the fruit, especially the elephants. In fact, in the malnad region, wild elephants rampage the fields and pull down trees while searching for the jackfruit.

I have known many farmers in the malnad regions like Chikkamagalur, Shivamogga, Hassan and even in Kodagu leaving the jackfruits on the trees in the hope that herds of wild elephants go back after satiating themselves leaving their plantation crops!

The jackfruits are considered meat substitutes in many of the vegetarian households. It is considered a healthy fruit, especially for the poorer sections due to its relatively low cost.

Jack of all Fruits or Trades?

With its abundance of vitamins, minerals, nutrients, carbohydrates, electrolytes, fibre and proteins, jackfruit has come to be recognised as ‘’jack of all fruits.’’

Even the tree is used for making furniture, logs for roofs in old style tiled houses and the dry branches are used as fuel wood. In addition, as all parts of the jackfruits, including seeds, are edible – of course, the outer skin and the other parts excluding the fruits, cannot be eaten by humans (though most of raw or rather unripe fruit is used in making curries) and generally fed to cows, buffaloes or even pigs, there is a popular saying ‘’jack of all trades!’’

One attractive beneficial aspect of jackfruit is its high calories but lack of cholesterol or saturated fats besides abundance of iron. Jackfruit is recommended even for people with diabetes despite its sweetness as it is known to be full of fibre and natural sugar, which may be helpful in slowing down glucose absorption. It is often recommended for people in need of low iron diet as is noticed from several medical studies.

However, medical experts may have their own views and opinions. In any case, as is often the case, too much of anything is not good and, therefore, must be bad. So, it is in our interest to maintain reasonable limits. It is better to be safe and cautious than be sorry later.

Going back to the beginning, I mean the Netflix Hindi film, Kathal, those who have not watched must give it a try. It is a satirical comedy written by Ashok Mishra and directed by Yashowardhan Mishra.

The light-hearted film revolves around two large Kathals or Jackfruits of the exotic Malaysian Uncle Hong variety going missing from a tree of a powerful MLA’s garden in the fictional town, Moba, and how Sanya Malhotra as the police inspector runs around chasing.

The film is worth a watch, at least to see the nose-to-the-ground kind of near perfect realistic and yet satiric performance of Sanya Malhotra. It is devoid of mushy romance, though it does have love angle, and big fights or gory gun battles and is enjoyable for the most part.




By Gabriel Vaz
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Comment on this article

  • Rita, Germany

    Wed, Jul 19 2023

    Somehow I didnt understand here the meaning.However I have not seen the film.But I know the fruit.Its called poor mans food.In olden days People used to eat in Monsoon as full time food when no rice was available ,no money.It used to satisfy their hunger full and was cheap too.Every part of it was used either to preserve if something was left.Was dried ,put in salt water for monsoon.or to make curry.Fish and meat was not for poor a far dream.Even outside skin was too not discarded.Animals ,cows ,dogs and even tigers at night were our guests waiting to discard what we couldnt consume.I still like it but it is costly here to buy.So if anyone kind enough to bring from India we share.very well written.

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