The choice of plot is very interesting because it holds the promise of unusual drama. However, Choked: Paisa Bolta Hai is an idea that does not consistently pay off.
The title of the film is an apt term for our reaction as a country, after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced demonetisation in 2016. The story pivots around this backdrop; a nation choked of resources, finding ways to survive.
Saiyami Kher and Roshan Mathew play a middle class couple living in a typical Maharashtrian colony in Mumbai. She is a hard-working cashier in a bank, and he is a musician struggling to earn a steady income. They have a son, but not much else in common. There is a rift between the two. Flashbacks hint at a music audition gone wrong, when Saiyami chokes in front of an audience, as a helpless Roshan looks on. The daily drudgery of survival in a city like Mumbai has taken its toll on their relationship. But a choked drainage pipe in the kitchen changes everything, putting their lives in a tailspin.
Few can get the authenticity of middle class Mumbai as spot on as Anurag Kashyap. In setting up the plot, the choice of locations (who else would choose a bank designed to be like in the ’80s, complete with big fans squeaking in the background?), the production design, using the supporting cast – his control is perfect in visualising the world of his characters. It is what he does in this world, is where the problems lie.
While the premise of the story is catchy, the plot goes nowhere with it. To find unexpected wealth is a feeling all – well, most of us anyway – can relate to. But as events unfold, we are left underwhelmed with the plot. In the simplest of thoughts, you’d want the money to be spent and enjoy the capers that ensue, or you’d want the money to be chased and enjoy the suspense that follows. But Kher does neither, and she holds on to it. The apt middle-class choice to make, for sure. This choice of plot is very interesting because it holds the promise of unusual drama. It is a gamble that does not consistently pay off. The impact of demonetisation creates difficult situations for both husband and wife, and they navigate each other elegantly – one hiding a secret, the other trying to find out what it is. It is this tug-of-war between the two that keeps the narrative moving for most of the film.
It is not enough to lift the film, and part of the blame lies with the performances of the lead roles. They bring the joyless nature of their characters into their performances. This is a film that depends on the actors to bring out the texture of the film, the idea that Anurag Kashyap is chasing in the film. They are unable to do so.
For an audience used to immediate gratification on OTT platforms, this Netflix produced film would be not the first choice. For the rest, we’re left wanting for more.
Hindi, Drama, Color