Netflix’s Choked: Paisa Bolta Hai is smart in most of the places but falls flat when it comes to maintaining the tension throughout the film.
Choked: Paisa Bolta Hai is a drama centered around demonetization. The movie starts with a scene where a man is throwing packed bundles of notes in a sink, the camera then travels down the pipe, the darkness dissolves into a disco ball which transforms into a black dirty water overflowing from the floor. We then see the regular routine of Sarita, a middle-class bank employee who is the sole breadwinner of her family. Her husband Sushant, neither manages the house nor earns for the family. One fine day, Sarita notices that her sink pipe is choked due to some other reason and then she finds out bundles of notes, packed in plastic.
The cut scenes initially intentioned to maintain the tension of the plot are actually the ones that hinder the presence of tension in the first place.
The cuts looked desultory making the intentions of the whole film appear unclear. Anurag Kashyap smartly critiques the decision of demonetization but he isn’t able to provide a proper, smart edginess to the plot. He creates an atmosphere to showcase how people were celebrating demonisation and praising the prime minister without considering the shortcomings of this sudden declaration. Later, you come to know that these are just used as small tools of smart mockery. The narrative is also marked with jazz music which sounds much like the rehearsal session of the show The Eddy or the background music of some of Scorsese’s films related to mobs like Casino or The Irishman.
Sarita was also an aspiring singer who choked on her performance in a reality show. While Sushant was once a musician. We get to know that they used to be happy together before the reality show incident happened. Anurag Kashyap masterfully achieves the correct ambiance of a middle-class family. Both Sushant and Sarita fight with each other on the bed while their kid tries to sleep in the middle. In a scene, he is forced to wake up to answer a query in their fight. The nosy behavior of the neighbors. The way they act towards Sarita to get their job done. All this is very neatly arranged. Even, day to day incidents in the life of Sarita presages social commentary. Like in a scene, Sushant complains about having potato for three days in a week and telling Sarita to make paneer sometimes. Sarita replies ‘ To eat paneer, you have to be paneer.’
The performances of Saiyami Kher and Roshan Mathew are satisfying. Amruta Subash’s performance was extraordinary. Dialogues are neatly crafted but at places, they tend to fall flat because of the chosen style of narrative. The music is pretty good, in fact, the credits song, in the end, is so unique and apt. The movie is very different from the ones Anurag usually makes and the tension could have been built more creatively. One particular scene I liked was when Sarita is mocked by a customer for double-checking the amount of money even when the machine has counted it for her. She smartly replies ” The machine has checked it twice, I have checked it for the third time, you won’t check it then again ?”
Overall, Choked: Paisa Bolta Hai could have been better and edgy at many places but the end is thought-provoking in its own way.