Trapped is a survival film. They are reasonably good commercial ventures when the challenge is taken collectively by an entire group of people such as Titanic, The Poseidon Adventure or The Towering Inferno. But when a single character and that too, a very ordinary man, is suddenly thrust into a vortex of death, then the director and the actor are both taking a massive risk.
Director Vikramaditya Motwane and Rajkummar Rao readily pick up the gauntlet they have thrown at themselves to fight it till the end. This is not a disaster film or a film where there has been a major catastrophe or a natural or man-made calamity. There are no villains. No one has diabolically planned to trap Shaurya (Rajkummar Rao) for ulterior ends. Yet, he finds himself locked in a room in an empty flat with the keys dangling dangerously outside. The apartment is on the 32nd floor of a high-rise apartment, tellingly named Swarg Apartments in Mumbai’s posh Prabhadevi area. Every single flat is lying vacant for two years. The doddering old watchman is hard of hearing and listens to music on his transistor or mobile when he is not sleeping.
As Shaurya struggles to get out, the suspense escalates every moment and you find yourself glued to the screen. There is hardly any dialogue in the first half when he is trapped except for Shaurya’s loud cries for help, till his voice is reduced to a croak but no one can hear him from such a height and no one cares because the building is empty. You want to yet can’t take your eyes away from him as you follow him in his pain and his grief. Lines of communication break off with the electricity conking off and his cell cannot be charged any more. Water becomes a scarcity and Shaurya slowly begins to hallucinate as his physical strength begins to sap.
Trapped has several layers of understanding the mindset of any individual who might, one fine day, find himself pushed to the edge of survival purely by a tiny circumstantial error of timing that motivates him to create every ingenuous way he can. It underscores the lengths to which a young man can go just to win over a girl he is obsessed with though he has known her for a short time. This obsession becomes a life-or-death question that forces him to go flat-hunting though he does not have any money. The question of faith becomes futile when Shaurya, a vegetarian, must eat the most inedible things just to keep alive.
This largely single-set film that throws up the outside world from the balcony of the 32nd floor from Shaurya’s point of view, finds the camera giving us a birds-eye view of the buildings in the neighborhood, the terrace of a small building opposite where a woman comes to dry the washing and take them away but cannot hear his cries for help. Siddharth Diwan as DoP takes the challenge of capturing the growing fear, pain, disgust, surrender, small bits of hope followed by despair through close-ups of Shaurya’s extremely mobile face, or, mid-shots of his taking a shower cheerfully like a child with the rain water he has collected in emptied out drums of paint as much as the blurred images of the flat, its rooms, walls, switchboards because we are then seeing the space through Shaurya’s blurred vision.
The shots of the raging fire spreading into the room, creating a different fear within the young man, the sudden showers that bring momentary relief for Shaurya, his hallucinations of an adventure show he has watched on television some time, are all captured as if to celebrate the magic the movie camera can create in the hands of a gifted young cinematographer. Even in physically limiting circumstances, the camera can bring the world inside and take the insider out, can play with different degrees of darkness as it sets in, telling the audience that one more day has gone without hope of rescue.
Anish John’s sound design fits perfectly into the scheme of the film’s story and its mission. The same goes for Nitin Baid’s editing, which occasionally moves back in time to catch Shaurya with girlfriend Noorie in different eating places offering oblique references to the edges of starvation he is pushed to. Alokananda Dasgupta’s music track is soft, low key and minimal, which evokes a deep sense of pain and melancholy, bringing out the spirit of the story that could as easily be mine or yours as it is Shaurya’s.
No one could have brought Shaurya alive so vividly but Rajkummar Rao. Reports go that he lived off carrots and coffee for ten days to get the feel of living on the edge in real terms in order to be able to psyche himself into the character.
So, what gives? For one, the script has quite a few logical lapses to get into the main story that do not ring genuine for a simple, middle-class young man like Shaurya. Two, the film could have ended much before it actually did and the closure is a bit of a dramatic compromise.
Trapped is not about a hero and his adventures. It is about an ordinary man and his misadventures. Does it kill him? Watch the film for that. It won’t kill you.
Hindi, Drama, Color
Couldn’t he have thrown pieces of paper down with the message that he is locked up upstairs? Just a thought.