Real and Palpable
'Phobia' is a psychological thriller about Mehak Deo (Radhika Apte) an artist, who, owing to an untoward incident, starts suffering from Agoraphobia - a fear of open public spaces - and thus cannot step out of the house and remains indoors, which later manifests itself into panic attacks and paranormal delusions.
How she is consumed by the fear of actual and anticipated situations which permeates her whole being and her struggle to cope with it, forms the crux of this film.
Radhika, who essays Mehak brilliantly, portrayed a gamut of emotions with ease and conviction. She almost carries the film squarely on her shoulders. Her fears and how she deals with imaginary situations, are real and palpable, making you sit on the edge of your seat. She matches the physical appearance of her inner mind, looking harried and unkempt, without an iota of glamour.
She is ably supported by Satyadeep Mishra who plays Shaan, her friend and support system with sincerity and confidence.
Nivedita Bhattacharya, an otherwise competent actor, is wasted in a miniscule role of her sister.
Yashaswani Dayama, renders a fun and energetic performance and captivates you in her limited screen time as Nikki, Mehak's neighbour and friend.
Director Pawan Kriplani, who has earlier given "Ragini MMS" obviously knows how to hook his audience. Here too, he successfully creates the setting and mood for a subject like this, making the phobia on screen translate into his audience.
Nowhere does he deviate from the actual plot and manages to keep the audience riveted to the screen, anticipating what will happen next, thanks to the water-tight screenplay. There is something exceedingly believable about the film and its characters.
The jump scares, heightened by the background score, amplifies the viewing experience, making you squirm in fright. Of course some of the frightening elements seem exaggerated and uncalled for, but don't seem too jarring or incongruous. The mode of narration making use of flash backs, appears confusing at times.
All possible tropes atypical of this genre - camera angles, background score, lighting, are successfully used to create the perfect atmosphere which spooks you sufficiently.
With decent production values and completely devoid of entertainment and commercial cinema trappings, Phobia succeeds in engaging you, significantly.