Digital Review: ‘Choked: Paisa Bolta Hai’

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When an Anurag Kashyap directorial makes its debut on Netflix, don’t be surprised if you feel a tad bit excited. Known for his dark portrayals of stories which seem to strike particular chords with the audiences, ‘Choked: Paisa Bolta Hai’ is one that looked interesting from the first trailer. With Saiyami Kher, Amruta Subhash and Roshan Matthew in the main roles, Kashyap was offering a take on the lower middle class life in the time of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s demonetisation four years ago.

Sarita (Kher) works in a bank and her husband Sushant is a musician still chasing his dreams. It emerges not far in that Sarita was a singer on a reality TV show a few years back but she “choked” in one of the rounds which meant she couldn’t go further. One day, when she wakes up in the early hours, she discovers rolled up notes of money coming up through a gutter in her kitchen and, after checking they are all not counterfeit, she begins spending the money, until she gets caught by the man who has been placing the money in his gutter.

‘Choked’ is definitely a Kashyap special, with the darkness almost contributing to this small-town story as a character in itself, which is arguably representative of many couples or people of the lower middle class. With fantastically etched characters and scenarios which help those characters show their own, Kashyap derives some truly impressive performances from the cast and also shows their shortcomings, their unrealised dreams and selfish tendencies all at the same time.

It has to be said that Kher very much leads this cast and how. After a solid performance in Hotstar’s ‘Special OPS’, she manages to fit into the character of Sarita with such perfection that you feel like you could watch her all day, if the film was that long. She is closely followed by Subhash as her neighbour who manages to give a sterling performance as the neighbour who is loyal but also inquisitive, but also trying her hardest to make ends meet herself. After ‘Selection Day and ‘Sacred Games 2’, she once again makes the character her own and you do think about some of the scenes she’s in even after you’ve watched the film. Matthew is also applauseworthy as Sushant, and his scenes with Kher are memorable – especially the one where they have a whispering argument in bed over their sleeping child who is in between them.

What lets the film down very slightly is that, sadly, after the realisations towards the end, things become a little scatty and a little too perfect. The rawness is lost somewhere and the dreams are then coming true in the most unimagined way, for the main characters. Although this is something that could’ve been included for “cinematic” purposes, it somehow doesn’t fit in with the rest of the film.

To conclude, it has to be said that the themes that Kashyap highlights within ‘Choked’ are interestingly unquestionable and the fact that the whole scenario changes once demonetisation comes into play is something immediately engaging. However, the unravelling of the stories and the characters up until that point sets up the audience adequately in order to then understand that much better the plight of all the lives the characters are living. Watch this for a good, solid film which is about a set of characters within a small town but essentially indicates trends and mentalities that could represent a good selection of real communities and individuals. And with performances that deserve recognition and praise.

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