Slaps: A few unnecessary scenes that could have been chopped off to make the plot even more taut
What's New: It is quite brave of director Pawan Kripalani to dish out a psychological thriller based on a phobia considering the fact that this genre is rarely explored in Bollywood. What is even more applaud-worthy is that he pulls off the feat quite well without resorting to those done-to-death thrill tricks.
Popcorn Refill: Strictly Interval
Plot: The film opens with a Kafka quote which reads- 'A cage went in search of a bird'. Next we are introduced to Mehak (Radhika Apte), a talented artist whose world turns upside after being sexually assaulted by a taxi driver when she is returning home one late night. The traumatic experience scars her to such a great extent that she falls victim to agoraphobia (an intense fear of being in public places where you feel escape might be difficult).
Her panic attacks become a cause of worry for her sister and her family. After a virtual therapy session goes wrong, Mehak's friend Shaan (Satyadeep Mishra) decides to take up her responsibility and shifts her to a new rented apartment. However Mehak starts experiencing disturbing visions and strange voices there. She learns that the flat's previous tenant Jiah is missing. Soon she stumbles upon her missing diary and learns about her abusive boyfriend Manu (Ankur Vikal) who turns out to her next-door neighbour. A series of mishaps causes Mehak to believe that Manu murdered Jiah. She then decides to seek help of only neighbourhood friend and her 'cold coffee drinking' companion Nikki (Yashaswini Dayama) who is more than happy to help her in uncovering the truth.
Are all these events a figment of Mehak's imagination or do they actually exist?
Performances: Radhika Apte delivers one of her finest performances and is aptly cast. She is vulnerable, at the same time her aggression, angst and fear gives you goosebumps. A total slaying performance by her!
Satyadeep Mishra is impressive and leaves his mark. Yashaswini Dayama bowls you over completely with her terrifying act and brings a wide smile on your face everything she appears on the screen. Ankur Vakil as the mysterious guy Manu sends cold shivers down your spine.
Direction: Pawan Kriplani who has made flicks like 'Ragini MMS' and 'Darr @ The Mall' in the past has based his latest outing on a phobia and added an intriguing touch to it. On an honest note, psychological thrillers ain't easy to make. One has to constantly be sure that the audience is on their toes so that the guessing game continues till the very end. Thankfully the director has executed his plan pretty well. Every time you think that you have got it all right, he springs up a surprise twist!
'Phobia' has some 'heart-in-the-mouth' jump scares when you least expect them. Further the film is not just about nail-biting moments. The nerve-recking tale also has some humour to ease the tension and lighten up your mood.
The movie has only one song and that too it flows with the narrative. So we ain't complaining either. Jayarishna Gummadi's top-notch cinematography makes 'Phobia' a chilling and engaging watch.
On the flip-side the film could have been of a shorter duration and just as effective. ( In fact a couple of people even told me that 'Phobia' as a short film too would have made a compelling and gripping story. Now isn't that some food for discussion?) After a suspense-filled first half when Pawan finally reveals his cards post interval, some might find the climax a bit let-down if it doesn't match their thought process (I personally enjoyed the finale which came with its own sets of flaws!)
Combo-on-offer: A Rollercoaster Of Emotions+ Chills+ Riveting And Unconventional Narrative+ Fine Performances
Verdict: We give 'Phobia' 'THUNDEROUS CLAPS' for Radhika Apte's sensational performance coupled with thrills and shivers which kept us hooked till the last frame!