Pawan Kirpalani brings Agoraphobia to Hindi cinema and he is blessed to find an actress with such a caliber as Radhika Apte. Quoting a phobia was never the central theme in Indian cinema and you could understand the response from the viewers/ listeners whenever a phobia is thrown at them. There is a scene in the movie when Mahek tells her neighbor that she has “Agoraphobia” (which is pronounced as “Agrophobia”), the first reaction she gives is “It sounds exotic” and the analogies are drawn to “Taj Mahal Phobia”
“Phobia” is the story of an artist Mahek Deo whose paintings earned good reputation. She is in general cheerful until she undergoes a sexual assault by a cab driver. Pawan keeps his cards very close to his heart and gives away only as much to give the context. This has been the theme all through the movie as you observe in multiple scenes.
Unless most thriller movies where the story takes its own time to settle down, “Phobia” races quickly through that introduction part. All that the director needed was one scene to establish the context and sits back to watch Radhika Apte run the show. She does it such a perfection and it is such a happy gift for a narrator to find an actor/ actress who can portray what he or she might have envisioned. I might not know what Pawan Kriplani might have visualized but he couldn’t have got a better choice than Radhika Apte.
She settles into Mahek super quick, just like a snap of fingers. The majority of the movie is set in a single setting with only Radhika to give everything. She gives a performance of a lifetime. All the other actors are left only to support her.
The other person that deserves the special mention in this movie is the cinematographer Jayakrishna Gummadi. With an excellent performer, all over the frame and only a setting to work with, it is a normal temptation to leave the camera at the command of the actor/actress. But, Jayakrishna doesn’t seem to be such a guy. He experimented a lot in this movie – a shadow moving over the building that grows as the cab driver moves to assault Mahek, the dual mirrors to capture the emotions from two dimensions to quote a couple.
But, the biggest drawback in the movie is its underlying logic and concept. Thrillers are not the regular commercial format which would mean any logical mishap would appear to be a disaster. This the problem with “Phobia” too. The questions would be raised around how she was brought to a random secluded building filled with maniacs when she was already suffering from phobia that makes her sensitive towards her surroundings.
Halfway through the way, the movie changes its stance from being a thriller to a horror and returns to haphazardly to the climax. This is where the movie falls flat. The whole ante and drama created through the performances and settings are lost in the meager logical content.
Overall, “Phobia” needed an actress of Radhika Apte’s caliber and she delivers her absolute best. But, Radhika Apte deserved a much better worked out script to appreciate the true value of her performance just the painting “Nazara”.
Language: Hindi| Rating: A | RunTime: 112 Mins.
Direction- Written: Pavan Kirpalani |
Cinematographer: Jayakrishna Gummadi |
Editor: Pooja Ladha Surti |
Music: Daniel George, Karan Gaur |
Cast: Radhika Apte, Satyadeep Mishra, Yashaswini Dayama