PHOBIA (2016)

posterPhobia is a minimalistic and yet fresh attempt at mixing two genres together. While it starts off as a psychological thriller, it soon moves into the horror genre with scenes and moments that sent shivers down my spine. I was absolutely petrified at atleast three junctures. The film is extremely investing thanks to the great act from Radhika Apte who is not only believable but also successfully instills the fear that she has in her heart in the hearts of the viewers. I went into this film thinking it to be a psychological thriller in the same line as “Kaun?” or “Panic Room” but it took me for a ride that I wasn’t expecting.

Mehak (Radhika Apte) is a victim of a brutal assault who develops Agoraphobia and is practically restricted to her recently rented apartment. She is so scared of her surroundings that she is unable to move out of the front door to drop off her garbage. She has a supportive friend who does all it takes to make her feel comfortable but is also in the lookout for making out with her. Soon Mehak starts hearing voices and seeing things in the house which makes her believe that the previous tenant of the house might have been murdered by a neighbor and she might be trying to communicate with her.

Phobia-Reviews-375x195Radhika Apte’s performance brings the film alive. There are prolonged sequences of her alone in the house trying to deal with her fears that are captivating, primarily because of the way she essays them. Her fear feels very real. She is confused, scared and sometimes dangerous and all those feelings are transposed to you as the viewer. The film constantly makes you question what she is seeing as you as the viewer know that she is suffering from a mental condition and the director in many sequences shows us her visions to be delusions. Thus the audience is just as confused as the protagonist. It is one of the charms of the film.

The film basically unfolds in a house and the cinematographer does well to keep the visuals interesting. There are also a few cues taken from the “Paranormal Activities” films and they are used intelligently. There are a lot of use of mirrors. The screen when filled up with close-ups of Apte are done so with interesting angles and sparingly with the use of mirrors. The lighting of the film effects the mood and the fear factor and it is done with aplomb. My attention was drawn to a superb shot wherein sunlight was entering a room through a small hole on the front door of Mehak’s apartment and she was moving closer and closer towards the light. These little tweaks of visuals here and there work great.

The film also works hard to take you astray in many sequences. The plot is absolutely not what you take it to be. I 0db85b1c1cd5fb179a29a6219487cd24ce3e73d5-tc-img-previewwas pleasantly surprised by the way the film ended. For once, Bollywood was able to surprise me with an ending. I was able to guess the ending just a few seconds before the ending was revealed and that doesn’t happen too often with me. Phobia is the exact opposite end of the spectrum in relation to Vikram Bhatt horror films that I must admit, I enjoy from time to time. Here we have a film which has the courage to be different and hold on to that characteristic without surrendering to Bollywood clichés in the end.  On the flip side, the film starts of slow and loses steam in the narrative at many junctures. Also just watching a girl go through the motions inside a house alone can be a tad bit tedious for some.

Having said that, Phobia is still a refreshing new film. I adored the courage and the execution that went into making this film what it is. Yes! The film does lose steam just before the interval and somewhat in the middle of the second half but that’s something we can easily live with for the novelty, performances, entertainment and finesse that it has to offer. Radhika Apte is brilliant and her performance elevates the film everytime it gets a tad bit repetitive. She alone is worth watching this film for. This is definitely a must watch.

Rating 4/5 (4 out of 5 Stars)

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