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Phobia  : Chills Without Frills
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Friday, May 27, 2016
Pavan Kripalani
Ankur Vikal, Nivideta Bhattacharya, Satyadeep Mishra, Yashswani Dayama, Radhika Apte

With its very title which the Hindi-speaking mass audience won’t understand, Phobia limits its appeal.  But promos and posters have promised a good scare and director Pavan Kirpalani provides a steady supply of creepy moments. 


After an exhibition, artist Mehak Deo fobs off her friend Shaan’s overtures and goes home alone in a taxi. With her dozing behind and the driver blaring ‘Gandi baat’ inside the taxi, the turn into a lonely stretch has to be ominous.


What the driver did to Mahek remains a question mark but what that episode did to her is clear: the outgoing girl has developed agoraphobia, the fear of stepping out of the house. A psychiatrist tries virtual therapy by asking her to wear virtual reality glasses and go shopping but Mahek remains helplessly frozen and unable to do that even in the comfort of her home. It’s a home she shares with her sister but when her little nephew is petrified of his aunt’s psychotic condition, Shaan shifts Mahek to a friend’s empty apartment in a bustling housing society.


But is it really empty?


What happened to Jiah, its previous tenant who’s gone missing? Dodgy Manu next door has had something to do with her disappearance. There are sights and sounds that indicate a presence in the apartment, elements trying to reach out to Mahek. The psychiatrist thinks she’s turning crazy but a delightfully natural college kid on the same floor encourages Mahek’s wackiness.    


There are red herrings strewn around and when you think something will jump out of the mirror, it doesn’t.  But just when you relax, something creeps up.


Phobia packs it all in -- a bathroom with secrets, a wall that knocks, sights during nights alone in the apartment and camerawork that does the usual tricks like closing in from behind.


When it’s about supernatural forces and watching tomorrow’s visuals today, one doesn’t look for logic or answers. Some of the answers that do come at the end may not even be understood by many. I also think the horror genre and Radhika Apte’s presence would hold the lure of steamy scenes. But Phobia is a clean scare-fest with nothing more to bare. And that could be a disappointment.


Does it at least scare you silly? It’s definitely not the ultimate scary experience. But for those who might like to check out agoraphobia along with a few eerie moments, Radhika Apte takes you on the trip with first-rate professionalism. Satyadeep Mishra as Shaan gives her the support she needs.


For a film that just about delivers what it promises but doesn’t go beyond, Phobia gets a 3* rating.           


Reviewed by
Bharathi S Pradhan
Senior Columnist & Author


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