Actors: Saiyamyi Kher, Roshan Mathew and Amruta Subhash
Director: Anurag Kashyap
Rating: 4 stars ****
The super success of Sacred Games and Lust Stories meant it was only a matter of time before Netflix pay rolled Anurag Kashyap to create new content for its streaming platform. As one of India’s maverick filmmakers, his gritty crime dramas have gripped the country’s youth and global diaspora. At a time when the world’s population slowly eases out of lockdown with employment and income issues on their minds, what better subject matter than money for his latest release.
Choked: Paisa Bolta Hai veers away from Kashyap’s usual sinister settings and dark characters to tell the story of Sushant and Sarita, a working class Maharashtrian couple down on their luck. After failed attempts at becoming a professional musician Sushant (Roshan Mathew) idles away his time at home jobless, while Sarita (Saiyamyi Kher) works long hours as a bank cashier. With her dreams of being a famous singer dashed, her life is filled with drudgery as she struggles to keep her household running.
However, things take an unexpected turn when Sarita discovers a secret stash of cash mysteriously appear from the blocked drain pip beneath her kitchen sink. As if by some divine intervention, every night neatly rolled packets of rupees spew forth, leaving Sarita with the dilemma; does she report or keep her newfound wealth? With her husband’s debts piling up and a young son’s future to worry about, Sarita is left with little choice.
Having hidden away most of her loot and spent some on home improvements, Sarita’s luck doesn’t last long. In a twist of fate, Prime Minister Modi’s shocking announcement of demonetization sends her world into a tailspin. How Sarita handles this unpredictable scenario forms the crux of this social drama, deftly handled by Kashyap.
In a clear departure from the bold and ultra violent content and edgy style of direction for which is he famed, Kashyap lends a more sensitive touch to Choked. His casting of newcomers Kher and Mathew is a gamble that pays off handsomely, both actors totally immersed in the portrayal of their characters and the insular community they inhabit. Special mention for Amruta Subhash as the couple’s conniving neighbour who manages to steal every scene she is in with her ability to swing from sweet housewife to hysterical banshee.
Credit also to writer Nihit Bhave for creating one of the first Indian features to throw a satirical but balanced light on the topic of demonetization and the impact it had on Indian society. A pleasant watch, Choked will have you rooting for the main protagonist and leave you feeling surprisingly upbeat, probably a first for a Kashyap production.