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Phobia presents itself as a psychological thriller directed by Pawan Kripalani, featuring Radhika Apte as an artist who fights a phobia of stepping outside her house. The movie aptly grasps the mercurial personality of an agoraphobic – one who fears open places. What do you actually mean by that? Well, you are too anxious to step out of your comfort zone and too panicky to remain inside the house. It is the classic catch 22 situation that the person is grappling with.
Phobia is touted to be as the game-changer in the thriller-horror movie category. It most definitely shatters the Bollywood horror movie stereotypes.
Surprisingly, the ever-so-careful Censor Board of India didn’t suggest a single cut for the film (or couldn’t find one if we may put it that way!)
At an exhibition, Mehak (Radhika) is discussing with bunch of friends. Mehak talks about an old man who spoke with her – “I have seen you somewhere, you look like my dog.” Coincidentally the date of dog’s death coincided with her birth date. During this conversation, Mehak catches a glimpse of a taxi with gas gushing out of it. Little did she know the consequences of the mysterious taxi.
The story line revolves around the dramatic turnaround in the life of a person post one night. As they say it just takes one moment, just one roll of dice to turn the tide. The night in the taxi turned out to be that life-changer for Mehak.
The drunk boy and girl(Shaan and Mehak) are travelling in the cab post the exhibition. Shaan asks her to come over for drink when they reach his place, she denies and drops him off to continue travelling alone to her home. The taxi driver confirms that she is asleep and thus not in her senses. He takes her to a shady place at midnight. What transpires after that is a brutal subjugation of a helpless drunk girl by a senseless, lustful and immoral taxi driver.
Her sister makes a failed attempt to give Mehak a psychological therapy to bring her out of the trauma. In a last gasp effort to save Mehak from the tribulations of clinic and its confines, Shaan takes her to a new place (thinking that living at a different place would help her cope with the situation and come to terms with it faster)
The new home brings in a story of its own.
Manu, a creepy neighbor and the torment of previous tenant Jiah add another critical dimension to the story. The diary written by Jiah stokes Mehak’s imagination about the possible murder of Jiah.
May it be the severed finger in the ice tray; or crawling of Jiah from the bath tub right through the bedroom, passage and the hall, smeared with blood and cut at the throat – everything which at first glance seemed puzzling and perplexing is subtly revealed at the climax. All the above sequence of events repeat; however in this case instead of Jiah or supposed mysterious ghost, Mehak herself underwent that ordeal.
The mere thought of foreseeing yourself undergo mayhem and torture and inability to counter that thought – illustrates the helplessness of the human mind. While on one hand we applaud the great inventions and path-breaking innovation this human mind rakes in, certain incidents in life leave such a lasting impression that the same human mind forgets what it is supposed to mind. The intense struggle between yourself and the fear (call it mania or phobia) makes the movie a compelling watch.
Nazara – the painting of Mehak Deo describes a hand that reaches out for help given from others.
Irony of a Hand
It was this same hand that drew the painting, that ended up truly personifying it and living the picture in reality. The same hand which was clasped, pressed, pressurized and crushed by a hand that was supposed to shoulder responsibility of safely dropping home. And then there is another hand which helps in the process of resurrecting from the ashes (or sexual abuse) in turn mutilates it. As a result, the poor mutilated hand (bruised,abused and butchered) has no other option but to seek for help from rest of the world to begin yet another process of rebuilding. As they rightly say – a picture is worth thousand words.
In the Hindsight
Phobia is a metaphor for the proponents of “women should cover themselves well, women shouldn’t go out alone at night” . At the same time Phobia addresses the Indian social fabric – while women fear the outside world thanks to the unwarranted sexual assaults carried out regularly, they continue to fight the devil within.
Call it riveting or cloying, ghost flick or a psychological thriller, this social commentary is an intriguing experience.