Phobia review: Radhika Apte rules this scary, taut thriller

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Phobia review
Director: Pavan Kriplani
Cast: Radhika Apte, Ankur Vikal
Rating: 4/5

Pavan Kriplani’s Phobia has all the elements of a racy thriller -- surprise, fear, mystery and shock. What it doesn’t have is the background music and actors preparing you for a surprise. In Phobia, the unexpected does happen. And, the film wouldn’t have been the same were it not for Radhika Apte’s powerful performance that will give you goosebumps.
The protagonist, Mehek Deo (Radhika Apte), is an artist who has Agoraphobia, an irrational fear of open spaces, and spends months inside her house before moving to a new one. Sexual assault at the hands of a cab driver triggered her condition. Even as she fights her fear, she starts hallucinating that the previous occupant of her flat was murdered and was seeking help.
Despite the element of horror, director Pavan Kriplani manages to keep the supernatural, religious drama at bay and opts for a psychological mayhem that makes for an impressive viewing experience.

The symbolism and subtle but strong message make Phobia Kriplani’s best film till date (he has Ragini MMS and Darr @the Mall to his credit). Though the film is fast-paced, it voices the concerns of women in a male-dominant society. There are even references to the 19th century English literature where a woman questioning the male supremacy is declared crazy and locked up -- much like Mehek.

Her angry conversations with her male friend are aimed at the patriarchal society that takes pride in “protecting” the woman and keeping her confined to home. The fear of open spaces is as much about the sexual assault as it is about men preying upon women.

There are a few flaws in Phobia but Apte excels. Except for Manu (played by Ankur Vikal), people around Mehek are weak characters, which have not been thought through. Their lack of common sense is jarring which halts the pace of the film.