Choked: Paisa Bolta Hai is a Netflix film (is it valid to say that?) directed by Anurag Kashyap and written by Nihit Bhave (Sacred Games co-writer). It stars Saiyami Kher and Roshan Mathew in pivotal roles.
Choked is, by self admission one of the warmest movies that Anurag Kashyap has made and it shows. Just to take an instance, no one gets killed in this movie (may be a mild spoiler, I guess). Choked tells the story of a strained marriage between Sarita and Susanth, we are dropped into the middle of their life in a flat in Mumbai. Sarita is a bank employee and Susanth does different jobs each month. He is a musician who does not do any music. Sarita would descibe him as an aloo 🥔. They have a school going son who is trapped in all the drama happening between his parents. When Sarita finds some cash bundled from a drainage pipe, drama escalates into a thriller.
One of the first telling moments that this is a Anurag Kashyap movie is when the couple start fighting. The fight starts with a whisper gradually escalating to shouting. Both of them intentionally shake their son awake to make case for them. As always Anurag shines in his portrayal of selfish characters, this one did not go all Ugly as expected, but there are still brief moments where it shines. Another would be where Susanth delivers lunch to Sarita at her workplace, instead of thanking him or acknowledging his presence Sarita goes on to justify that he is only doing it because he was in the area.
The cinematography drains the movie of any bright colors (except for flashbacks) and the camera successfully creates claustrophobic images by drafting the scenes very close to the characters or from an top angle. Mumbai’s metro system forms another character in the movie as Sarita is repeatedly seen disappearing into a large crowd at the Metro. Inside the Metro, she is often shot as a hand reaching out to the railing. This tells us more about the life the lead character is yearning for and the life that materialised for her.
Saiyami Kher and Roshan Mathew play their roles effectively. As they are both acting out selfishly there is a lot at stake with their likeability. Roshan brings a charisma to his lazy persona which was essential for his character. They are joined by one of Kashyap regulars Amruta Subhash, who does a fantastic job as Thai; the nosy good-at-heart but gossiping neighbour.
Mild Spoilers ahead
When Sarita waddles into black waters and finds money, she is greeted with a life changing miracle. How she deals with this new found wealth and how her husband reacts to it forms rest of the story. Anurag and Nihit conveniently stages this drama in 2016 and Demonitisation becomes the obstacle that takes us to the third act of the movie. Instead of the in your face commentary, Anurag opts for sarcasm as tool to bring us political commentary.
- The movie opens with a television anchor who goes on to say that eating Mushrooms would make us like Modiji pointing to the cult status of Prime Minister.
- When people start queueing up to exchange notes, there is a person who asks if the new note has a microchip, he is later seen taking a selfie with the note.
- When an old lady complains at the bank, the cashier says Banks only dole out money, not sympathy. Please complain to the people you voted for.
- A Dappankuthu song is playing with characters doing a lungi dance to it as demonitisation is announced. This is mixed with people queueing up in long lines to exchange money.
The movie is fun because of the characters it inhabits and as we care about them. But you will still reach to check if it indeed the end when you get there. The movie falters in tying up the loose ends that it kept constructing for long. It seemed to talk about demonitisation, but except the bits of social commentary on it, it did not show (show, don’t tell) how it was affecting the middle and lower economic class of society. The backstory of Sarita with her being Choked on stage once in a reality show did not tie back to her making a decision and not choking. As far as the climax is considered, she still kind off choked in the end. I thought that greed would certainly eat up Sarita but then the priciest item she bought was a 7000₹ worth kitchen item that she gave away (Was this also social commentary 🤔) While it seems that Susanth learned to be a responsible husband and father, it came from the fear that someone was stealing his wife.
The song that Sarita sings at her reality show starts:
Fallible heroes who make us their narrator.
That said, Choked is still an interesting and intriguing watch for the craft and it’s lovable characters. You should go see it 😋 Choked and tie and the ends together yourself.
It’s refreshing to have Netflix back with something working after so many duds. Do you think Hotstar has what it takes to deliver a Sushmita Sen hit with Aarya?