rajkummar rao is trapped
Bollywood Reviews

“Trapped”… Opens a raw, new genre for Hindi cinema!

No, this isn’t familiar cinema space for a regular Hindi film viewer. Our protagonist is a clumsy executive called Shaurya (meaning valour). He dreams of a blissful married life with the girl he loves. One with staunch faith in God, it is near symbolic when Shaurya gets trapped in an apartment called ‘Swarg’ (heaven) – in the most plausible manner ever. Now, who wouldn’t want a permanent place in heaven?

Vikramaditya Motwane’s third directorial venture Trapped doesn’t boast of a topsy-turvy screenplay. Here is one film that tends to photograph basic human survival instinct and the unbeatable strength that lies within each of us.

Survival drama is one genre Hindi cinema hasn’t explored much, as opposed to regional industries. Their international counterparts are known for their heavy mounting – popular ones like Ang Lee’s tempestuous Life of Pi, Robert Zemeckis’ iconic Castaway, Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours and umpteen others. It is their scale and vast canvas that enthrall one and all. Occasional glimmer of experiments like Rodrigo Cortés’s Buried notwithstanding, the universal trick in the book is to show a lone man in a vast expanse of land, figuring a way out. In stark contrast, another approach of narrating a story set in ‘confines’ can be seen in Lenny Abrahanson’s emotional Room and closer home in Pavan Kripalani’s recent Hindi feature Phobia. Both are projected in a smaller surface area – that of a closed​ house/room. Claustrophobic as they are, neither of them are complete survival drama films. Room, for instance, cleverly segregates the precincts with structured production design and comfortably avoids camera movements that could induce distress.

Now, Motwane in all his Indie glory merges flavours from the aforementioned templates to create a sweeping survival film set in the middle of bustling South Mumbai. We get lesser mounting, smothering confines of an under-built apartment and a man fighting for his life. They say Mumbai waits for none. They also say Mumbai has space for all. Upon summation of these two statements, you get an answer that is Trapped.

Very soon in the film, Motwane confidently establishes why he is amongst the finest working filmmakers in Hindi cinema today. His brilliance is in the detailing – a clustered office space with jam-packed bays, the shit-hole of a house with residents who have no fucks to give. We are slowly introduced to various interpretations of living space, the extreme need for it and the sheer lack of it. Besides that, Shaurya’s everyman awkwardness defines a single, middle-class working youngster paddling through a so-called independent life in a big bad city. His timid speech, under-confident body language, the meagre luggage (also the God’s photograph) he clutches around, his rationale for being vegetarian – a bit of Shaurya is in each of us.

Mind you, the twist in the tale is no huge surprise. The moment you are introduced to the culprit (the apartment), you would expect the jolt to happen. When it eventually does, Trapped cleverly begins evaluating options for a way out making us, viewers, very much a part of this trial-and-error exercise. Beginning with the much familiar mobile charger that glimmers but doesn’t turn saviour, the production design is beyond belief. These objects and props turn the most ‘exciting’ elements in the film inducing a tendency in viewers to dissect the situation. Siddharth Diwan’s camera balances movements and stable shots without bring in dizziness to a conceivably claustrophobic milieu.

Helped by a studied background score, Rajkummar Rao lives his part as Shaurya. He convinces us on how survival is the rawest of cravings, how far we actually are from our conservations and, most importantly, on quenching our worst fears. There’s minimal atmosphere and countably few supporting players to help Rao pave through this gargantuan task of keeping us involved. And boy, he does it like a seasoned player. Geetanjali Thapa is sprightly as the lovely girlfriend who, unfortunately, stops to matter after a point.

Hiccups, any? Though it isn’t a big anomaly as such, one expects the film to shed its extremely simplicity in final reels. There are subtle revelations being made and Rao’s final scene is to the point as well. However, what we miss is a larger insight from this life-changing ordeal. The insignificance of everything else amidst one’s struggle to survive doesn’t shine through the finale. Also, in absence of breathers, one wishes there were more of those tiny flashbacks or neatly interspersed bits where Shaurya hallucinates. The latter reminds us of last year’s remarkable animation feature The Red Turtle though.

Having said that, Trapped is  a brave feature film to be made by a notable Bollywood filmmaker of the day. In absence of tropes that ideally make a fine commercial film, the film assuredly rests in realm of reality. For the fact how three of his directorial features do not radiate that ‘filmed by so-and-so’ vibe, Motwane is clearly amongst the best we have. If not the very best.

Rating: ★★★★

P.S.: The other day while experiencing a similar ordeal, yours truly didn’t bother calling out to snooty neighbours. Swiggy was sneakily dialed and a good laugh was had with the delivery guy. And yes, food didn’t taste as good in a long time.

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