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
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
Bharathi S Pradhan
Senior Columnist & Author