In Pawan Kripalani’s “Phobia”, Radhika Apte plays an artist who develops agoraphobia (an irrational fear of open or public places) after a traumatic incident. She is terrified of strangers and mortally afraid of stepping out of her house.
Her behavior is disruptive enough for her family to consider putting her in a mental hospital, but her friend and secret admirer Shaan (Satyadeep Misra) feels otherwise. Convinced that living in a different house and surroundings will help Mehak (Apte) get over her irrational fear, he spirits her away to what is by all accounts a very strange house – peeling walls, strange noises and even stranger neighbours, none of which do Mehak’s mental state any good.
The idea of isolating a mentally ill person rather than getting her help seems stupid, but once you get over this noticeable flaw in the script, Kripalani manages to produce the required thrills and chills that will keep the audience on the edge of their seats.
Thanks to Apte’s acting, some well-utilised background music and lots of false alarms, “Phobia” manages to convey Mehak’s fears and illusions very well. At one point, we don’t know whether the events unfolding before us are a figment of her imagination or whether there really are bloodied, severed fingers lying around the house.
In his third film, Kripalani’s narrative is tight and the writing (by Pooja Ladha Surti, Arun Sukumarand Pawan Kripalani himself) smart enough that you don’t see the end coming from a mile away. Apte, on whose shoulders the entire film rests, carries off the burden remarkably well. She manages to build up Mehak’s increasingly jumpy and terrified demeanour as the film progresses.
Satyadeep Misra as Shaan and Yashaswini Dayama as the nosy kid who helps Mehak are good additions to the cast, as is Ankur Vikal, who plays a blade-wielding neighbour with a creepy smile.
Reminiscent of his first film “Ragini MMS”, Kripalani passes the basic horror film test – he scares you enough to make you jump out of your seat and intrigues you enough to make you stay till the end.