March 17, 2017
Cast: Rajkummar Rao, Geetanjali Thapa
Director: Vikramaditya Motwane
From his debut in Dibakar Banerjee’s Love Sex Aur Dhokha, in which he played a misguided shop attendant who makes a sex tape with an unsuspecting young woman and sells it to get out of a debt, to his role as a poor migrant in City Lights who turns to desperate measures to provide a better life for his family, Rajkummar Rao has brought nuance and layers and unmistakable grace to the various iterations of the ‘everyman’ that he has built his career playing. Few actors have revealed such a gift for taking categorically nondescript men and turning them into memorable characters.
Which is why it makes perfect sense that Vikramaditya Motwane chose Rao to play Shaurya, an Average Joe stuck in a flat without food, water, electricity, or a functioning mobile phone. Because watching him go through that ordeal, you know this could happen to anyone.
Trapped is Motwane’s third film, and unlike Udaan and Lootera it’s a stripped-down character piece more reliant on plot and performance over craft. It’s a genre film, a survival drama to be specific, but Motwane and his writers put an interesting spin on things.
Rejecting the classic template wherein these stories are set against isolated, abandoned landscapes – think Cast Away, 127 Hours or Buried – the struggle for survival here unfolds in an apartment in an unfinished high-rise located in the heart of Mumbai’s busy Prabhadevi neighborhood. A big part of the film’s thrill comes from watching Shaurya make multiple, desperate attempts to draw the attention of those going about their lives only a few hundred feet below.
The film then is as much an allegory about the city. A concrete jungle where one is well and truly on one’s own, despite being surrounded by thousands of people at any time.
Rao effectively conveys the multitude of emotions that Shaurya is overcome with, and his transformation under the circumstances is utterly convincing. In purely physical terms, his frame has become gaunt, his ribs are starting to show. But there is more going on here. The transformation is internal too. The desperation has led to fearlessness, the timidity is gone. A furry foe becomes a Wilson-like figure, a companion with whom feelings are shared. Rao keeps it all within the realm of honesty and believability, making the viewer feel as if you’re trapped with him.
Although it’s only 103 minutes in running time, it’s true the film feels long and stretched, as movies of this genre – centered around a single character – usually do. Nail-biting moments, unfortunately, are too few. Yet despite its occasional shortcomings, Trapped is a wholly involving drama that you become quickly invested in. The bulk of the credit for that goes to the film’s incredible leading man who delivers his finest work here.
(This review first aired on CNN News18)