Choked Hindi Movie Review
Small packets of currency come out of a plumbing system in the new Netflix Original film 'Choked: Paisa Bolta Hai'. We see how money gets there, but how does it spew out of a kitchen pipe? It is one of the few great mysteries in this Anurag Kashyap film, which looks at the effects of demonetisation on a cash-strapped family in a Mumbai apartment.
The story of 'Choked' revolves around Sarita Pillai (Saiyami Kher) and Sushant Pillai (Roshan Mathew). Sarita works in a local government bank as a teller. Her job mainly involves counting notes, and she does a lot of counting and calculations throughout Choked. From the early exchanges between her and Sushant, we realize that all is not well within the family.
Their straining relationship is established through a series of scenes that works as a mirror of their life and a critique of the government. In one scene, Sushant tells her wife why she is cooking him Aloo thrice a day instead of Paneer, and she tells him, "Potatoes are for couch potatoes; be a Paneer to have Paneer".
From this exchange, it becomes evident that Sarita is not as fond of the man she fell in love with in the past. But her fortunes turn around when she finds that her kitchen sink is a repository of parcels of cash. This poses Sarita a dilemma of whether to tell the matter to her husband or keep it a secret.
The premise of 'Choked' is interesting, but the movie falters in execution. A faulty plumbing system discharging money like an ATM is an interesting idea, but Kashyap and his writer Nihit Bhave do not build on this premise. I get what the makers of Choked are aiming at here: This overarching message that the Indian economy is like a seemingly faulty plumbing system. Money goes in through someplace, it lands in all the wrong and unexpected places, and nobody but the corrupt knows how it gets there. Putting it in the dirty water of the kitchen sink is metaphorical of black money. No good will ever come out of it.
Sylvester Fonseca's cinematography conveys the claustrophobia of a family living in a small, congested flat. And, Karsh Kale's background score strives to bring out a sense of urgency to the proceedings, the same urgency that is missing in the script. Like the authorities who handled demonetisation, even a man of Anurag Kashyap's caliber seems out of his depth in Choked. But the film is not a complete write-off.
As usual, Kashyap manages to keep Choked watchable by extracting some fine performances from his hugely talented cast. Roshan Mathew is earnest in his portrayal of Sushant Pillai. He is a bum, a man who does not do much and depends on his wife as the primary source of income. Roshan's performance is so good that it also lets us see the good side to Sushant, not just the bad and ugly.
Then there is Saiyami Kher as Sarita. She brings out the confusion and complexity of a lady stuck in a strange situation with utmost ease. I must also add a special note to Amrutha Subhash, who is wisecracking here as a divorcee with a thing for spreading rumors.
The chemistry between Roshan and Saiyami is sparkling. Watch the two in that scene where both argue over trivial household matters while forcing their son to support one of them over the other. It is in these sporadic moments of ingenuity that Choked comes to life.