The film is directed by Pawan Kripalani, who made Ragini MMS.
It's not easy to make a horror film that is different from the usual tantrik-chudail stuff and make something that can connect with the masses. Pawan Kripalani tried with his first film Ragini MMS and succeeded to an extent. Does Phobia repeat the act or better his first attempt? Read on to find out...
What's it about
Loosely based on a little known English flick by the same name, the film deals with a rare psychological condition called agoraphobia. Mahek (Radhika Apte) is the victim, who suffers from the problem after she was sexually assaulted by a taxi driver. She is scared to go out in public spaces and is intimidated to meet new people. After her elder sister is fed up of these new turn of events, Mahek's boyfriend (Satyadeep Mishra) takes her to a flat in Malad. The previous occupant of the flat has gone absconding, and her fiance, also happens to be her neighbor (Ankur Vikal) is a creepy guy who laughs maniacally. At her home, Mahek hears strange voices and sees disturbing visions. Her boyfriend feels her condition is just aggravating, but she is sure it has something to do with missing case of the previous occupant. Is she right about what she thinks? Or is it her phobia that's making her imagine stuff?
Having not seen a good horror movie from our stables for a long time, I was genuinely surprised by the scares the film had in store for me, especially in the first half. The premise is a novel theme for the Indian audiences, especially the subject of agoraphobia. Pawan Kripalani does a great job in setting up Mahek's unusual ailment. Whenever she has these panic attacks, its like even we feel her fear, her insecurities. Special mention must also go to the camerawork and the background score. A couple of scenes did make me jump, and the suspense was definitely nail biting. The interval scene will definitely scare the hell out of you. However, nothing would have worked if the director had cast an inferior talent in the lead role. That's where Radhika Apte scores. She is simply terrific as the woman who is scared of stepping out of her house, as well as staying inside. If it was not for her performance, we would not have felt the fear, the film wants to instil in us.
As her sympathetic yet desperate boyfriend, Satyadeep Mishra is a natural, while Ankur Vikal is aptly cast as the creepy guy. The unexpected turn in the latter's arc was hilarious. That's another thing I appreciated about the movie. Even though its a psychological thriller, there are some genuinely funny moments. Yashaswini who plays the nosy girl next door is another latent to watch out for!
Remember those Aahat stories which were divided into two episodes, with the first one being thrilling and second a let down? This is what I felt after going through the second half of Phobia. The brilliant setup of the plot and some real scares in the first half were let down by a stretched and haphazard second half. Except for one scene that went the Paranormal Activity way, none of the scares worked. Though the mystery of the missing girl was concluded in an unexpected way, the scenes after just play with your patience and adds to your confusion. In fact, we are not even sure what the director wants to say about Mahek's predicament. I don't want to spoil stuff here, but the conclusion was a definite let down and a total disappointment. The abstract symbolisms in the end only makes us scratch our heads more.
What to do
Phobia had the potential of being one of those rare Bollywood psychological thrillers that you can proudly recommend to your friends. A genuinely claustrophobic first half and Radhika Apte's fantastic performance were its aces. However the limp second half, especially the climax, only demotes its status to a decent thriller.
3.5 out of 5
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