Choked movie cast: Saiyami Kher, Roshan Mathew, Amruta Subhash, Upendra Limaye, Rajshri Deshpande
Choked movie director: Anurag Kashyap
Choked movie rating: 2 stars
It’s the kind of thing most of us dream about: having a stream of cash fetch up in our sweaty paws from seemingly nowhere, and the promise of more. It would be manna for anyone, but it’s especially so when you have your back against the wall, plodding through a joyless job, and a marriage from which all the fun has leached out. What happens in Sarita Sahasrabuddhe’s life, when a plumbing disaster in her kitchen leads to an unexpected windfall?
Such an intriguing premise. And a set of characters so realistically spelling out middle-class Mumbai, all of whom live in a building, in a swelter of crabby camaraderie and well-meaning gossip: bank teller Sarita (Kher), jobless, debt-ridden husband Sushant (Mathew), and a young son buffeted between the constantly bickering couple; the matronly, affectionate Sharvari Tai (Subhash) whose daughter is on the verge of getting hitched; a nosey neighbour (Deshpande), and a feckless fellow who is always diving into easy-money schemes, and getting his hapless wife to bail him out.
Money, or the lack of it, is the grease through which everyone slips. There’s a reason why the film is set in 2016 (remember that fateful demonetisation day when so much of our currency turned to dust?), and just the fact of bringing it up as a plot-point is refreshing, especially because it’s not a rah-rah Mexican wave. That D-Day threw us all in turmoil, and caused so much havoc, that it can fully juice up a black comedy or two. Or several. But Choked doesn’t quite live up to its premise: it has some fine elements, but the connective tissue that binds it all together is a weak stretch.
The connection between slush money and a sludgy drain-pipe is dirty and delicious. And the portrait of a marriage going bust is the strongest part of the film: Kher’s permanent state of slate-eyed impatience with her husband, who owes large sums of cash to a dodgy type (Limaye) has real weight, much more than a past mistake as a participant in a singing contest that keeps haunting her: that last bit, which gives the film part of its name, doesn’t mesh in the proceedings well enough.
Other loose ends hang. The background music is overdone. The plot doesn’t come together, with it’s thriller-like tone slipping and sliding, dipping especially when we see long lines of desperate people trying to change their old cash into new. A mysterious old lady takes a sneaky picture of our bank teller, but the payoff doesn’t have weight. And so on.
Given Kashyap’s skill-sets of melding the real with the bizarre, the twisted with the straight, this money heist had the potential to be a real zinger. The medley of nursery rhymes (akkad bakkad, nani teri morni) playing over the end credits has the kind of savage tinge this tale of ‘kaala dhan and saaf log’ should have had running right through. But not enough bite here.
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