Director Anurag Kashyap signs the film with his style with a fresh take, but he could have given a bigger takeaway
Probably the first Indian film on Demonetization. Choked keeps this much hyped, much debated, much criticised, much hailed issue of Demonetization at the backdrop, in a way that the subject is a hero in itself. Weaving lives of common men, it also takes the route of waking your sleeping desires up, in the most cinematic nature. While a lot is to be cherished here in terms of its cinematic elements, the crux falls a little short to impress you thoroughly.
Having done away with her dream of becoming a singer, Sarita Pillai (Saiyami Kher) is a bank employee struggling to make the ends meet. Tough is the task as her husband Sushant (Roshan Mathew) is jobless and doesn’t even wish to seek work. But as life would have it, she finds a secret source of unlimited cash in her home.
Written by Nihit Bhave, it’s a very promising plot. An idea that everybody in India relates to, more so because it happened recently. That’s a major reason why the film attracts you even more. You are excited for it. You watch it in complete attention. And right after a gripping opening sequence, you wait for things to unfold.
The film has a quality of suspense, building on you step by step. You anticipate things, and are kept guessing. By the manner of how the idea is conceptualised, you sail through in the first half of the film. The characters, situations, setup, little details on how much subtle a common man’s struggles are, the frustration and irritation that’s always underrated- are all what come alive by a very mature direction of Kashyap.
The scenes brim with life, especially like the one where the couple fights while their child sleeps between them. It’s a long take and you marvel the writing and direction in such scenes. Little shades of life are brought out intelligently by the use of clever one liners and dark humour, making the film an enjoyable watch.
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However the film has a flip side to it. There is not enough giveaway when it comes to Demonetization. Even when you know what is happening in the lead character’s life, it is very much on the surface level, never really hitting off the ground. Also, there is a parallel track (which by the way is very well related to Demonetization) that eventually feels unnecessary. Only to build the tension? The downside can be ignored thus.
Also, the film doesn’t seem to go anywhere after a point, right after the first half. It gets stagnant. Thankfully, it picks up towards the end, but even then, it’s not enough to lighten you up or give you a major breakthrough. Infact, when the film is nearing its end, and if you think of the point when the film began, you wonder why Nihit Bhave chose Demonetization as the backdrop.
Saiyami Kher is just too good. As a common citizen, who toils hard to earn satisfactorily, she is simply superb. A great performance from somebody whose earlier filmography hasn’t been quite substantial. Here, Kher is everywhere in the film, most importantly, making you relate to her in every sense. For the entire nation who has seen Demonetization happen and take its course, they will see a character on screen whose parts will belong to everyone.
The beauty here is the sketching of her character, on how relatable she has been made. She has her flaws, her weaknesses, her desires- all what we have. And that’s where the character becomes a winner.
Roshan Mathew, a Malayalam actor originally, makes his debut in Bollywood. And it’s an impressive one. Kashyap squeezes brilliance out of him. Kudos to Mathew for behaving so aptly in a role that doesn’t have layers initially, but soon he gives them all to you. He delivers meanings that you will most likely find appealing. He is very good as an actor. The fact that you’re seeing him for the first time works in the advantage for his character. There’s a surprise, that gives him scope to perform.
Amruta Subhash, a brilliant actor, makes her mark in a rather shorter but very impactful appearance. When she comes on screen, not only does she bring familiarity, but also confidence in the narrative. She has been given some of the simplest scenes, but she lifts them up tremendously with her polished act. Reinforces the fact that she’s a great actor.
Rajshri Deshpande, who got noticed after Sacred Games, is also at par with the plot, others in the frame, and the craft of acting. Uday Nene has a small role but he performs well. The kid Parthveer Shukla also performs nicely, making his presence felt.
Upendra Limaye is just okay. He doesn’t have much scope to perform.
Music by Karsh Kale and Rachita Arora is suited to the film. The mood they create through tunes is good. But a song that may bind the narrative is missing. Background score is also very correct to the positioning of the film.
Cinematography by Sylvester Fonseca is just so good to adore. There are times when you actually wonder how camera has been taken into such confined spaces. The milieu that Fonseca creates gives the film the required feel and flavour. That’s half the task. You feel realism in almost everything. Hence production designer Ravi Srivastava must be credited for building sets that breathe reality.
Editing by Konark Saxena is wonderful. There is a suspense hinted right from the first scene and during the times when the film reaches its maximum level of interest, the film becomes a spectacle. The scenes are cut finely. The flow is good, for the major part.
It is a film that entertains. This was a simple story that demanded more. With a social scenario thoughtfully used to convey a simple but effective story, this film could go places. Technically, it’s one of Kashyap’s best undoubtedly. But otherwise, you feel a little unsatisfied.