Netflix’s ‘Choked’ Scores on a Powerful Script & Confident Acting

The film is directed by Anurag Kashyap. 

Updated05 Jun 2020, 01:32 PM IST
Movie Reviews
3 min read

Choked: Paisa Bolta Hai

Netflix’s ‘Choked’ Scores on a Powerful Script & Confident Acting

Anurag Kashyap’s latest collaboration with Netflix, Choked: Paisa Bolta Hai, opens with a dark silhouette surreptitiously walking into a room, carrying a briefcase full of money … these are the Rs 500 notes of yore. The image is striking enough and the said notes are functional since it’s still October 2016 . Even before we can fully register the implications of the scene or who that man was, we are pulled into the bustle of everyday life of a typical middle class family who we get to know better over the course of the next two hours.

A still from <i>Choked: Paisa Bolta Hai</i>.
A still from Choked: Paisa Bolta Hai.
(Photo Courtesy: Netflix screengrab)

The scene cuts to a man rubbing his eyes as he saunters around the house. A heated argument with a neighbour reveals Sushant (Roshan Mathew) isn’t gainfully employed. The lady we see working in a bank comes home to the same messy house. We slowly understand the dynamics of their married life. Sarita (Saiyami Kher), the responsible one, works in a bank and is tough on herself and others. They are two people who are struggling, both in life and in their dreams. She wakes up feeling choked, thinking of a failed performance on stag. On the other hand, Sushant is waiting for that big break. As the couple sit down to eat a meal the only background noise is of a blasting TV that talks of mushrooms being the reason for Modi ji’s youthful energy. The sarcasm is delicately served.

Politics and incisive observations are always intricately woven into an Anurag Kashyap film. The tongue-in-cheek sarcasm is evident but a tad subtle.

In the first fifteen minutes itself, Nihit Bhave’s script introduces us to the principle characters - the husband and wife, their cute son, a dramatic neighbour (Amruta Subhash), an upset business partner (Uday Nene) and a clogged kitchen sink that needs immediate attention.

The precise moment when the demonetisation announcement is made comes to us through the Prime Minister’s own voice from the TV set, in front of which stand glued Sarita, her neighbour Sharvari tai and Sushant. The hysterical laughter of Sharvari tai, coupled with Sarita’s transfixed glare even as Sushant gleefully says “ab aayenge ache din”, is another scene created with minimum accoutrement but maximum impact.

A still from <i>Choked: Paisa Bolta Hai</i>.
A still from Choked: Paisa Bolta Hai.
(Photo Courtesy: Pinterest)

The narrative flows like a thriller. The mysterious bundles of cash and the clog that helps Sarita in the most serendipitous fashion hold our attention as much as the poignant scenes that unfold on screen which are still fresh in our memory. The huge queues at banks, the crisp, new Rs 2,000 notes and the rush to get the stipulated Rs 4,000. A senior citizen’s request to withdraw more money is met with a curt remark from Sarita, “bank mein paise milte hain sympathy nahi”. An impending wedding that has been thrown in jeopardy. Choked deftly highlights the impact of such a “historical” decision on the collective conscience – where the very legitimate trauma and trouble is an imperceptible presence as is the satirical tone.

Sylvester Fonseca’s camera captures the everyday un-doctored reality of documentary and Kashyap’s precision of telling a great story together uplifts Choked. One might argue that Kashyap appears to be pulling back some punches and the only time this becomes a full fledged attack is the parody lyrics set to the tune of Hindi Nursery rhymes that play along with the end credits, where feku to achhe din is laid threadbare. But it still manages to keep us engaged.

Saiyami Kher is astonishingly good as the strong-headed, sharp-tongued Sarita fighting her fears and putting up a robust defence. Roshan Mathew, who was fabulous in Geetu Mohandas’ Moothon, surrenders to Sushant’s frustrations and malleability. Both are so compelling as a couple trying to keep their boat afloat that it’s a pleasure to just see them go through their everyday lives. Amruta Subhash, Rajshri Deshpande, Uday Nene are equally effective .

Perhaps the first ever Hindi film that deals with notebandi and demonetisation, Choked would be relished for its tone and performances.

Our rating: 3.5 Quints out of 5

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Published: 05 Jun 2020, 06:44 AM IST

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