Choked, a Netflix original movie, directed by Anurag Kashyap and written by Nihit Bhave makes many promises but is unable to fulfill any of them. I saw the trailer on YouTube and thought that it will be a normal Anurag Kashyap movie. I must say that I was wrong.
I do not know if the word shocked will suffice my emotions about that movie. Generally, Kashyap’s movies are known for their engaging storyline which keeps the audience busy and on tethers. I was expecting something like that here too. But I was wrong.
The movie is awfully slow. At one point in time, it made me question the very fact that is it an Anurag Kashyap movie or not? But I was once again disappointed.
Choked starts with a man taking out bundles of notes from a suitcase and packing them in waterproof plastic bags. The wads of the notes are then lowered down the drain carefully. This creates a bit of suspicion and thrill among the audience as to why is it being done.
Let me tell you that it is the only suspicion and thrill you will feel throughout the approximately 2-hour long movie. I am not saying that the characters are boring, or the setting of the movie is mundane. But the absence of any curiosity in the lives of the characters becomes too much after a point of time.
Choked is a story of a lower-middle-class couple Sarita and Shashank who are struggling in their lives. Shashank is basically jobless except for some petty jobs here and there. Sarita works in a bank and has failed to perform in a reality show which could have possibly turned their fortune. Subsequently, whatever Sarita does has to be a failure. Right from the leaking sink to the hiding of money.
One day, Sarita finds out a fortune in the sewage pipes and dreams of a life where there will be no money problems. She contemplates whether she should share this with her husband or not. This contemplation could have been more dwelled upon, but it does not last for long in the movie.
Now, half the movie is already gone. The audiences are forced to ask the most regretted question- “Why?”. Then, a new plot is introduced: demonetization. This could have proved to be a focal point in the movie. The story could have taken an interesting turn and the plot could have gotten elevated. I got my hopes high.
But once again, my hopes were dashed to the floor. Demonetization was such a historic decision taken by the then government. This plot could have been explored in a much better way.
Choked only shows the superficial effect demonetization had on the Indian people. Sarita’s life at being a bank employee during demonetization is shown. The serpentine queues are aptly portrayed. The problems faced by Sharvani who is a single mother, planning her daughter’s weddings are real.
But apart from these, no other problems have been explored. I feel that there was much left untouched. Choked provides only superficial commentary on the economy, the government, and the public. It attempts at humor too, but it comes and leaves as quickly as the thrill.
The movie makes several attempts at holding on to different things for support, but nothing can save it from its subsequent drowning.
There were several instances where Choked could have elevated its plot. But it does not. There was a certain monotony in the movie. The characters reflected the tiredness which the people felt after seeing the movie.
The plot of Sarita and Shashank’s past could have been explored more. But the audience only gets to see some glimpses and nothing else. The depression and phobia arising out of the inability to perform could have been shown in a better manner.
The slowly decaying relationship between Sarita and Shashank in Choked could have been portrayed in a better manner with some closure. But the question of their relationship is left hanging in the air without any hints for the audience.
The music of Choked is abrupt and not in tandem with the plot. There is a dance sequence where there is this weird peppy music in the mehndi function of Sharvani’s daughter. The music director Karsh Kale fails to offer any exciting music.
The cast of Choked is great with actors like Saiyani Kher, Roshan Matthew, Amruta Subhash, and Rajshri Deshpande. But these actors have not been explored to their very core. A better performance was expected from these talented actors.
The same goes for the direction. We have seen Anurag Kashyap’s great direction abilities in different movies like Gangs of Wasseypur. Choked lacks something and the movie quickly becomes a hunt for those missing things rather than its actual plot.
Cinematographer Sylvester Fonseca’s capturing of the innards of the building, the nooks and crannies of the couple’s home are brilliant. The capturing of the sink scene enhances the seamless integration of these spaces with the narrative.
The screenplay has been successful in presenting the effect of demonetization in two ways. First, on Sharvani and then on Sarita. While Sharvani does not have enough currency notes to pay the people involved in the wedding, Sarita being a bank employee does not want to help.
Choked is about greed, corruption, a broken financial system, politicians who are corrupt, and of course, demonetization. But it fails to give that one reason for audiences to spend their two hours to watch it.
All in all, Choked could have explored its themes in a much better way. It was possible given the direction and choice of actors. The movie fails to live up to the expectations of its viewers. The audience is repeatedly forced to ask, “Why is this happening?” no matter how hard they try to resist themselves.