Choked: Paisa bolta hai talks about the events that transpired because of one of the biggest decisions taken by the present BJP government, and is showed through the lives that were affected the most, the middle class. However, while critiquing the daftness of the government and the loop holes within their policy making, director Anurag Kashyap takes a backseat with the craft side of it.
The year is 2016, the setting is Mumbai. The film starts with silhouette of a man, climbing to the top floor of a building. With the tensed yet exciting drum score by Karsh Kale, we see a brief case full of money, obviously black, being wrapped and ‘choked’ up a drainage pipe, later causing a plumbing issue by those living below during the day. Not knowing the reality and still suffering from an issue, this is literally also what the film’s backdrop highlights, that how it’s the decision made by those on top, which make everyone below them suffer, and that too without the truth.
This is shown through the eyes of a middle-class woman, Sarita Pillai (Saiyami Kher), a cashier at a government bank with a suffocating past, that has resulted in strangling her dreams and her marriage. She is married to Sushant Pillai (Roshan Matthew), a lazy, jobless man who though cannot sustain work, still reacts with a certain ego when he is called the “wife” in their relationship. The tone of the film is dull and grim, so as to highlight the life of Sarita, which is robotic, monotonous, but she has to do it to survive.
When Sarita resents the life she is leading, more so because of what it used to be before that one incident transpired, a plumbing problem comes to aid as a solution to her greed, money. She feels that her prayers are answered, and has a smile on her face, but that happiness is short lived. PM Narendra Modi had announced demonetization on an unfortunate evening in October of 2016. The makers have very well portrayed their stand on this issue. The reaction to the news itself said it. The ones that had nothing to lose, in all good sense or bad, celebrated and danced, while the others just stood there in disbelief.
An exhausted Sarita, who has no time to consider the issue at hand, tells an old lady wanting more money since she cannot stand in a queue every day, “Bank mein paise milte hain, sympathy nahi milti. unke haath jodiye jinko vote diya tha.” Another statement in the film is also when a local goon goes talks about how he is not as big as people who launched Jio and PayTM, but that doesn’t mean he stands in queues and dies. However, there are a lot of abrupt shots within the demonetisation angle of the film, which result in inconsistency in the cinematics while trying to make a point.
This film works best when its about Sarita and her world. Her marriage, her neighbour, her story, her past, there is enough there for the maker to churn out. However, while trying to take a political stand, they turned a blind eye to the plot. The dysfunctionality within their marriage, the helplessness Sushant exhibits, the neighbours within the building, who play their characters so true to reality wherein they support you in person, but gossip and are hypocritical as soon as you turn your back.
However, the performances do light up the rather gritty looking film, thanks to DOP Sylvester Fonseca who tries to recreate the claustrophobia of a lower middle-class family’s life. Amruta Subhash is pitch perfect playing Sarita Tai, who though shown selfless, always has ulterior motives to her cause. One of the best scenes of the film is when she comes into Sarita’s house, with a haunting laughter, telling them about the events that have transpired. Saiyami Kher hits all the right notes with her character of Sarita, from the look and dialect, to the internalisation of her conflicts and delivers her best performance in the movies.
While achieving its political agenda completely, Choked, suffers at a craft and story level. This can very well be seen with the climax, because it feels like a rush than a higher pay off, especially with this being a thriller film.
Choked: Paisa Bolta Hai is streaming on Netflix.