Film: Choked: Paisa Bolta Hai
Director: Anurag Kashyap
Cast: Saiyami Kher, Roshan Mathew, Amruta Subhash, Rajshri Deshpande, Tushar Dalvi and Upendra Lima
“Time kahan hai mere paas Prime Minister ke baare mein sochen ke liye…,” says the harried wife Sarita, the lead protagonist of Choked: Paisa Bolta Hai. But the belligerent director Anurag Kashyap whose political opinions are no secret certainly has. Only, surprise, surprise, the gifted filmmaker, who has had several run-ins with the present government, is more satirical than scathing in his directorial venture, which is set against the backdrop of demonetisation.
Many movies have referred to the life changing (many would say life threatening) notebandi of 2016 but only fleetingly, as a passing reference. And it takes a director of Kashyap’s calibre to weave an interesting tale, a full-fledged film around it. How a middle class wife whose troubles begin and end with money, comes across wads of notes stashed away by the corrupt is the basic premise. Will her life change for the better as night after night she waits by the choked drain to throw up dirty money (literally and otherwise)…. micro meets the macro (pun intended) here for sure. Telling points like the inconvenience caused to the public at large during the massive drive that adversely affected one and all, except may be the penniless or Modi followers, are made.
But more than making it a boring critique of the government’s policy now deemed totally unwarranted and one of the key reasons for India’s downward economic slide, Kashyap spices it up by focussing upon this couple and their neighbours. Sarita (Sayami Kher blends into her part with natural ease) is a bank employee. Her husband Sushant ( Roshan Mathew, restrained and effortless) is an out of work musician. Together they are dealing with everyday problems as well as their choked relationship that becomes more clogged after money surfaces. Sharvari Tai (Amruta Subhash suitably keyed in) is their neighbour in-need kind of friend whose daughter’s wedding festivity stands jeopardised post-demonetisation.
In between Kashyap can’t help but pack in tongue-in-cheek comments. “Bank sirf note de sakta hai, sympathy nahi…” and then there is a not-so-veiled reference to patriotism too. Apart from the witty one-liners, what keeps you invested is the quixotic predicament of Sarita. Can she with a backstory of stage-fright (she was a singer once) overcome her ‘choked’ voice this time over as chances of making money the unscrupulous way dangle right in her face in more than one way. Suffice it to say unlike Kashyap’s dark visceral cinema, Choked is not choc-o-bloc with ‘Ugly’ emotions and will not hit you in the guts. But it does probe and examine the issues at hand at various levels in clever ways. Rather slyly he tells you how what was seen as an anti-corruption crusade led to more corruption, even corrupted some law-abiding citizens Yes, money and greed was his subject in hard-hitting Ugly too, only here it will leave you with a smile.
And, it’s not just actor Vicky Kaushal who is amused with Kashyap’s new turn, you too would be mighty pleased. Saying more than that would be an outright spoiler, and we have no intentions of sapping your interest/excitement in a film, which has many thrilling moments and a few dull/repetitive ones too. The climax is more of a blur and anti-climax may not have you fully convinced. Nevertheless, this Netflix original is a riveting watch and one that will make you look at one of the watershed moments, which may have given you nightmares at that point, with more than a chuckle. Enjoy.