Eros International and Next Gen Films’ Phobia (A) is a psychological thriller. Mehek (Radhika Apte) is a promising painter. She is struck by agoraphobia after an unfortunate incident when she is travelling alone one night in a taxi.
Stricken by agoraphobia, Mehek is now fearful of stepping out of her house as she feels, calamity will strike if she does so. Her good friend, Shaan (Satyadeep Misra), and cousin, Anusha (Nivedita Bhattacharya), visit her but are unable to be of much help. They consult a psychiatrist (Faezeh Jalali) but even her treatment doesn’t really change matters. The psychiatrist recommends a line of treatment but Mehek and Shaan are against it.
With a view to give Mehek a change of atmosphere so that she might get over her agoraphobia, Shaan shifts her into a friend’s vacant flat. The flat used to earlier be occupied by Jiah (Amrit Bagchi). The neighbour, Mannu (Ankur Vikal), used to be in love with Jiah but he was an abusive partner and so, she had dumped him and gone.
Mehek’s fears of the outside world continue even in the new house. But in the new house, her problems multiply because she sees strange things happening inside the house. She gets visions of Jiah’s murder in the house and she is soon convinced that Mannu had killed Jiah. Therefore, Mehek can’t go out because of her agoraphobia and is scared to stay in the house because of the scary scenes she can see. Shaan keeps visiting her to keep her company. He even puts up cameras to capture what Mehek says she can ‘see’ in the house but there’s nothing which gets captured. It now becomes clear that the visions are all in Mehek’s mind. Or are they for real?
Mehek has befriended another neighbour, college-going Nicky (Yashaswini Dayma), whom she even lets in for an occasional cup of coffee. She manages to convince Nicky that Jiah had been murdered at the hands of Mannu. But then, one day, Jiah arrives on the scene.
So what is the truth? What has Mehek been ‘seeing’ in the house? Do her visions have any meaning at all? Does she get cured of agoraphobia?
Pavan Kirpalani’s story is interesting and has several points which scare the audience. It is quite different from earlier psychological thrillers as the issue of agoraphobia has not been tackled in any past film. But the screenplay, written by Pavan Kirpalani and Arun Sukumar, is engaging only upto a point. The audience wonders how Mehek and Shaan can be so unconcerned about her condition as to not go in for any treatment at all. It is clear to the viewers that simply shifting houses is not going to cure Mehek, so what’s the big deal in Shaan getting her to his friend’s vacant flat. The audience also finds it difficult to digest that Mehek would be made to live all alone in a new environment. No doubt, Shaan keeps visiting her but her condition is so serious that it looks idiotic for anyone to even think that she should be left alone in the new house. After a point of time, the audience gets the feeling that rather than the film moving logically, the entire drama has been penned to further the writers’ illogical thoughts so that the film can reach the climax after scaring the daylights out of the viewers. The drama also gets repetitive at places even though it is still quite engrossing.
The revelation towards the end, however, has not been explained too well. As a result, many viewers will just not understand the suspense and the culmination of the drama. Dialogues, penned by Pooja Ladha Surti, are very realistic and add to the drama.
Radhika Apte delivers a sterling performance as Mehek, a patient of agoraphobia. It is delightful to watch her change her expressions in a jiffy and to watch her mood swings. She acts so wonderfully that she makes her character cent per cent believable. Her dialogue delivery is superb. Satyadeep Misra is very endearing in the role of Shaan. His nuanced performance is praiseworthy. His dance is cute and deserves special mention. Yashaswini Dayma deserves distinction marks for her performance as the carefree, yet concerned, Nicky. Ankur Vikal is natural as Mannu. Nivedita Bhattacharya makes her presence beautifully felt in the role of Anusha. Amrit Bagchi, as Jiah, is nice in a brief role. Faezeh Jalali leaves a mark as the psychiatrist. Master Arush Nand (as Joey) and Salone Mehta (as Gul) are adequate.
Pavan Kirpalani’s direction is competent but the same cannot be said of the script co-written by him. His narrative style is racy and doesn’t let the audience’s interest decline. Having said this, it must be added that the film remains a class-appealing fare due to its content and technicalities in the drama. Daniel B. George’s music and Jay Shankar Prasad’s lyrics are okay. Adil Shaikh’s choreography is nice. Karan Gour’s background music is good. Cinematography (by Jayakrishna Gummadi) is lovely and complements the drama. Rinku Bachan’s action scenes are alright. Satyen Chaudhry’s production designing is appropriate. Editing (by Pooja Ladha Surti) is sharp.
On the whole, Phobia is a fairly entertaining fare but quite unpalatable as it does not tread the logical path. It also suffers from two major drawbacks – an uncommon word (for the non-English-speaking audience) as the title and a difficult-to-understand suspense. It will, therefore, fail to make any mark at the ticket windows.