Title Describes The Audience' State Of Mind As Much As The Story
A young man rents an apartment in a newly constructed high rise and with the key on the outside of the main door, gets locked inside. With no electricity, no phone, no food or water, he’s trapped inside. He has to improvise his escape. Alas this Robinson Crusoe is so tiresome, you wonder if this would have been better as a short film.
This is a festival film, for audiences that are willing to watch the odd and the weird, films that have niche appeal. Trapped is a festival film that wants public adulation. In fact, it was recommended by anyone who watched it at the Mumbai International Film Festival. But festival audiences are forgiving, they will understand creative liberties and the need to shock and awe. General public looks at logic, and this film lacks so much in that department, it is a difficult tale to swallow.
First, the good parts. The director begins the story of a shy young man, Shaurya, falling in love with a colleague from his non-descript office. It’s so good, it raises expectations.
You like his shyness, so you ignore his ‘watching’ (stalking, really) the girl from behind a door. But it begins to annoy you that he does not even tell her he found a house on rent! Does not even bring her over at night! What could be more romantic than sharing a plate of takeaway food in an empty apartment. But the director makes sure the shy guy remembers to carry the photo of the gods (does the picture of the Devi change to Hanuman?) from his shared apartment. That’s ‘look-at-my-middle-class-cool’ part of the film (also goes with using elastic from his ‘actively’ middle class underwear. ‘Actively’ because the art director must have gone in search of underwear sold on the street.).
He lives in Bombay! And no one who has struggled with money in this big city will ever hand over hand over hard-earned cash (15k) to a stranger, without any paperwork! Plus, if you wanted the apartment for the girl, you would at least call her to tell her you found a home! And they show him eager to jump her bones, then why does he sleep alone?
I’m not saying Rajkummar Rao does not put his heart and soul into acting first as the angry, demented man, brought down to his knees by his situation (he is trapped inside the house with the key on the outside of the door) and then as someone who learns to improvise to survive and then plan his escape. But we’ve seen this before from Castaway to Robinson Crusoe remakes…
What is annoying to watch is that everything seems to be so conveniently placed. He shudders in disgust after whacking the rat in the apartment. Then suddenly he’s trapped it in a makeshift cage. Really? Wouldn’t you just stick a cardboard under the inert rat and throw it out of the window, not chat with it! And Amitabh Bachchan has already had a conversation with a cockroach in Amar Akbar Anthony already… So there’s nothing new about ‘Chat With Rat’, it’s just a ‘I’m-so-clever’ device. And how he contrives to fashion a rotisserie to cook the pigeon when he's a vegetarian is just so illogical, you want to escape being trapped with him.
You do suspend disbelief and smile with his little successes. For example, when he collects rainwater. But a nagging voice inside you says, ‘This is Bombay! It doesn’t rain like that unless it is the Monsoons, and then it isn’t sunny like that…’
It is a relief to finally see him escape. But then unkind ideas for alternate endings where the rat brings his entire family to eat him up, pop in your head. Art house films...
P.S. I tried hard to like the film, I really did. I wanted to feel that claustrophobia, that helplessness of a common man and then someone made a spoof, an alt-trailer of the film and uploaded it on twitter. I had to laugh. Hysterically. Claustrophobia be damned …
(this review sans the post script on nowrunning dot com)