Choked Movie Review: Fighting your inner DeMon
Choked is a film that, in my eyes, deserves a firm place in history, decades hence. Pardon the bombast, but in the same way that Garm Hava (1973) has.
Director: Anurag Kashyap
Cast: Saiyami Kher, Roshan Mathew, Amruta Subhash
Guess any film — once public, and therefore personal for everyone watching it — can be interpreted in multiple ways. Depending on how you'd like it. In that sense, Anurag Kashyap's Choked is a film that, in my eyes, deserves a firm place in history, decades hence. Pardon the bombast, but in the same way that Garm Hava (1973) has.
Okay, seriously, bit much no? What could possibly be common between MS Sathyu's classic/masterpiece, and Kashyap's deliberately subversive, low-budget indie; also, for the most part, set indoors, within a particular family/home?
Garm Hava was arguably Indian cinema's first/most direct response to Partition. Choked, set in the third financial quarter of 2016-17 — without ever being too clever by half about it — is the first Indian mainstream feature, looking closely at demonetisation (DeMon) — undoubtedly the hugest self-inflicted crisis to hit India, at least since independence.
By virtue of that fact alone, it should survive as an important artifact, given that guys in government associated with that fatal move themselves don't talk about it anymore. And these are folks who write official history.
So is Choked overtly an angry/political film? Coming from Kashyap (Mukkabaaz, Gulaal, Black Friday)? No. Mere anger is a tweet; no art. Portions dealing with DeMon play out as a song. And more so, as sarcasm/satire, surveying people, who continue to praise their mushroom-loving Prime Minister, whose public image remains unblemished, regardless of what he does for a living.
Yes, this needs to be put on record too. Let it lie on Netflix for the next century or so.
But that's not really what the film is about. It actually relates to a kitchen sink-pipe that's choking with money/cash? Whose? We don't know. Is that why the film's called Choked? Think the title — therefore the picture's plot/point — might have something to do with the act of choking, that is failing in life.
Relate this to choking in sport. It's when the player on the field just stops trying (or moving beyond the safe/mundane). So there's no question of winning (or losing). Contrast choking to panicking; when, unable to bear any more pressure, the player gives the game away — playing rashly instead. Read Malcolm Gladwell's The Art Of Failure (in the anthology, What The Dog Saw). Thank me later.
Watch the trailer of Roshan Mathew starrer Choked here:
Or just observe the married couple in this movie. Who've seemingly failed at careers they had chosen for themselves. And consequently the sort of life they'd hoped to share together. Whether or not you can instantly relate their lives to the choked plumbing in the loo/kitchen; the fact that you can relate to them at all is more fundamental to the film. And you can.
Back in the '70s/'80s, in an altogether another context, the characters here, despite live drumming for background score, would have found their way into a Basu Chatterjee film. Maybe I'm saying this because Chatterjee, 90, passed away on the very day I write this. But there's no missing the subtle nod to middle-class cinema from three to four decades ago — of a housing society that operates more like an extended family, where everybody pokes/knows everybody.
That may or may not be true for Bombay per se. If I close my eyes to imagine a Mallu guy though, the image that's likely to show up is the curly-haired, bearded lead-actor Roshan Mathew's (he's handsome, so no knock on my Mallu friends; calm down). Saiyami Kher plays his wife and a cashier in a bank. This is as good as Kher's first film, since I can't quite remember her from her debut Mirziya (2016), since very few might recall that poetry in loose motion anyway.
Solidly dead-pan in her demeanour, she pulls you into this plot, keeps you hooked all through. Hooks you up with the ensemble cast — Amruta Subhash, in particular, as the over-dramatic neighbour, stealing at least one psycho moment from Nawaz in Kashyap's Raman Raghav (look out for it)! You're fully plugged in.
What about the choked plumbing? Frankly, it would've remained a Charlie Kaufman type movie-metaphor for young people fighting demons within. What demonetisation does to an intrinsically personal idea is introduce an as-yet unspoken, collective truth, that usually elevates fiction to a defining story of our times. The film's end is extremely fuzzy. But so was the end of the said self-goal.
Next thing to happen after DeMon, in this movie, is a bank robbery. Makes perfect sense. I'm told this script was originally written (by debutant Nihit Bhave) in 2012. So there are at least two people who benefitted from November 8, 2016 — comedian Kunal Kumra (whose DeMon gags made him a YouTube sensation overnight). And, evidently, Kashyap, Bombay's ballsiest filmmaker — kahan milega aisa content!
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