As a film, Choked needed more editing, as a script, it needed more writing. Choked is a film that has potential, but since the aim is so high, the potential gets lost and what we get is a more than half-cooked film. The film, written by Nihit Bhave and directed by Anurag Kashyap, has it’s moments of glory and there are plenty of them, but in many places it misses the bulls eye. We’re used to a certain earthy energy in Kashyap’s film, and here, that is the very essence that goes missing. Nevertheless, there is a lot to look forward to in Choked.
The film is about being choked, metaphorically, in relationships, at home, at the workplace, and also literally, when a sink pipe is choked. Sarita (Saiyami Kher) and Sushant Pillai (Roshan Mathew) are a middle-class couple. She works at a bank, while he does nothing as he waits to do something of his music. She is the only earning member of the family, and also the only one working at home. She works as a bank clerk and comes home to unwashed dishes. One fine day, there are rolls of money coming out of the chocked kitchen pipe. Sarita begins to enjoy a happier life, when suddenly the Prime Minister announces demonetisation.
What Kashyap and his writer, Bhave, think about demonetisation and also the Prime Minister is no secret. They aren’t afraid to take a side. But this film is not about that. Choked is about how political decisions made on the higher levels affect the lives of those at lower levels. In just once small scene, Kashyap tells us that not every decision made is a favourable one. And even if it is, it’s not worked out in a favourable way. In a post-demonetisation world, an old woman comes to Sarita’s counter to exchange her old notes, asking Sarita to give her the entire exchange on the same day (as against the Rs. 4000 per person, per day) because she’s old, lives alone and cannot come everyday. Sarita replies, “Bank mein paise milte hain, sympathy nahi milti. Unke haath jodiye jinko vote diya tha.” Choked highlights the decision of demonetisation and shows us how India’s middle class saw it as a ray of hope. Sushant and his friends are the happiest when the Prime Minister announces the news. They think this is the cure to the nation’s black money problem. But a few scenes later, instead of 1000 rupee notes, the sink pipe gives out new notes of Rs. 2000. There is no difference in the system.
There is very little Kashpay-ness in his Choked. But like Manmarziyaan, the film shines in its emotional moments, when it talks about relationships. The banter between Sarita and Sushant is beautiful. It’s always present, but not once does it become monotonous. In one scene, when he tells her that they’re eating potatoes for the third time this week, she says, “aloo ko aloo hi toh milega” (maybe in slightly different words). Between them, Kashyap also brilliantly puts in the lack of personal space in Mumbai. When the couple has to fight, their son is always around. In one particular scene, they’re fighting as the son sleeps between them.
There are also inter-personal moments between the Pillai and the other families that reside in the building. Watch out for Amruta Subhash as Sharvari Tai. She’s not just a wonderfully written character but also a very gifted actor. She switches between Tai’s moods in seconds. She’s crying in the first moment, and in the next is ordering someone to stir the dal with a straight face. It’s a standout performance.
The only reason why Choked doesn’t suffer so much at the hands of a more than half-cooked film, are the performances. Saiyami Kher and Roshan Mathew are both wonderful in their roles. He’s not been given much to do except sitting idle, playing carrom with his friends and constantly complaining, but he does his part well. Kher is a revelation. She brings out every single nuance of Sarita, in every single mood. In one particular scene, towards the end, Sarita is crying because she thinks she can never be a winner. Kher is outright brilliant in that particular scene. She outshines ever her own act in the rest of the film.
All in all, Choked is an important film on the lessons of the hoarding of black money. But it lacks in the telling. Having said that, nothing takes away from the fact that it is a very well performed film and will be a landmark film in the careers of Amruta Subhash, Saiyami Kher and Roshan Mathew.
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