Choked Movie Review: Anurag Kashyap’s Netflix Thriller Has Sprinkling of Good Moments Over an Inconsistent, Flawed Narrative

Sreeju Sudhakaran

Choked Movie Review: Anurag Kashyap is a very hit-n-miss director. He has the skills, the intelligence and the panache to be our very own Quentin Tarantino and Martin Scorsese rolled into one. The trouble is that, on one hand he makes masterpieces like Gangs of Wasseypur and Black Friday, on the other hand, there are duds like Bombay Velvet and No Smoking. His latest film, the Netflix release Choked: Paisa Bolta Hai, somewhat represents its director. At times, it makes you think you are watching a masterpiece. At times, you feel that Kashyap had totally lost the plot. In the end, we get a film that had potential, but is merely turns out to be a forgettable affair. Choked Trailer: Anurag Kashyap's Suspense Drama Starring Saiyami Kher and Roshan Mathew Has a Demonetisation Twist At Its Core (Watch Video).

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'Choked' in the title represents quite a few things. It is about its protagonist Sarita (Saiyami Kher) trauma, whose life turns for the ordinary after choking during a reality audition. It represents her kitchen drainage pipe whose choking leads a change of fortunes for her. And it also represents the country's state when the Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared demonetisation in 2016 allegedly to take on black money racket.

Sarita, a bank employee, and her unemployed Tamilian husband Sushant (Roshan Mathew, Moothon) stay in a lower middle-class neighborhood in Mumbai. Sarita is haunted by the memories and nightmares of her failed audition, while also being frustrated at Sushant's lackadaisical attitude towards their home and his debts.

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Something shady is going on in their above flat, though none of the other residents is aware of it. One night, Sarita find out that at a particular time, she can find bundles of notes wrapped in plastic in her kitchen sink drainage. She keeps the secret from her husband as she tries ways to spend the money without raising suspicion. However, to her, and the nation's, complete surprise, Modi declares demonetisation one night, and now she has to get rid of the notes that are no longer in value. Will her bank job come in handy?

The best part about Choked as a movie is how Anurag Kashyap builds up the fragile marriage of the leads, and the world around them. Sarita and Sushant's fractured relationship feels realistic and the scenes that depict the bliss gone zilch has spunk. Check out the scene when they bicker on the bed over a plumber and then ask their sleeping kid to determine who was right.

Similarly, even Sarita's neighbours are interesting lot, the types that yourselves have seen growing up and unconsciously, have become like them too. The Tai (Amruta Subhash) that lives the floor below, and who is flustered by her daughter's impending marriage, is a character whose frequent appearances spices up the proceedings. Similarly, Sushant's former business partner (Uday Nene), a snoopy granny (who doesn't like to be called one) and a jealous lady (Rajshri Deshpande) add their own tangy masala. The use of realistic locales and sets also give the film a distinct character. So all well and good, till Choked comes to its plot point - the discovery of easy money. Choked: Paisa Bolta Hai: Anurag Kashyap’s Netflix Film Starring Saiyami Kher and Roshan Mathew to Release On June 5.

From hereon, the movie behaves like South African batting side when put on high pressure, and living upto the title. What should have been the film's most intriguing part doesn't exactly keep you thrilled. Choked struggles to maintain the tempo and the thrill factor, often slowing down needlessly and testing our curiosity.

Watch the Trailer of Choked:

There are plenty of things left unexplained and the movie expects us to read a lot between the lines. Not an issue, but the movie shouldn't leave you assume so much on your own, when it doesn't give off that kind of idea in the beginning.

I expected things to be better when the Demonetisation happens. It does, occasionally. Choked is the first Bollywood movie to address demonetisation directly and its implications to the society. It's a brave move that only someone gutsy like Kashyap can pull off in an industry accused of bowing down to the ruling government to the point of breaking its spine.

Kashyap uses this plot point to make some very saucy observations on how the middle-class was brainwashed to believe acche din aayenge, only for them to get stuck for hours to get their own money from banks. The movie also makes fleeting implications that the decision was not a spur of the moment idea and that somehow, some politicians knew that demonetisation is going to happen and they moved the old notes.

Yet, the satirical elements - Sushant, as expected is a Modi fan - doesn't really mesh well with the thriller, and isn't taken complete advantage of. There is this track of Sushant's shady debtor Reddy (Upendra Limaye) who keeps troubling Sarita, that suffers from both inconsistent writing and editing. Also, why was the video of Sarita going to a hotel with Reddy given not enough payoff, though it was threatening to do some serious damage? Considering that Sushant was doubting his wife all along, why such a weak conclusion to this?

There are some fine scenes in between too. Like that fun scene where the building's women residents turn Tai's flat into a temporary pub. Or the tense-filled sequence of Sarita rummaging through her house with background score raising the tempo high. These scenes show Anurash Kashyap's masterful flourishes that I expected the rest of the film to follow. Sadly, that's not always the case.

One huge takeaway point from Choked is the revelation of Saiyami Kher as an actress. Haven't seen her in other films, save for Mirzya (where she has spunk, but the movie and her co-star let her down). Here, she is splending and extremely convincing as the middle-class working woman with her own demons. Giving her really good support is Roshan Mathew in his Bollywood debut. Despite his character's wastrel attitude, you really can't help but like him. Among the supporting cast, Amruta Subhash has a meatier role and stands out.

Yay!

- Saiyami Kher and Roshan Mathew
- The First Act and Some Good Sequences Afterward

Nay!

- Inconsistent Pacing and Writing
- The Thriller and Satire Don't Mesh Well

Final Thoughts

Choked as a social thriller has its moments and is fortified by Kher and Mathew's strong performances. However, As a film that comes out of Kashyap's brilliant mind, Choked turns to be a mixed-bag effort, as it chokes and splutters its way to the finishing line. The movie is streaming on Netflix.