Hawk McNabe of Wild TV talks about the Indonesian jungles in his survival-in-the-wild show. To give a picture of the exotic wilderness and the dangers it bears, he talks excitedly about lizards twice the size of his fist, alligators as long as buses and such. And he ends the monologue saying "What you don't know can kill you".
But Shaurya (Rajkumar Rao), who's just moved into a new apartment, knows his premises. It's Mumbai after all. When he looks out the grilled window it's all very familiar. There's the local train, the chawls, more high-rise buildings like the one he's in (he's like a dozen floors above ground), pretty night lights, and lots of traffic. You've seen it all before.
The very house he's in is an unremarkable 1BHK of the kind that you would find hundreds of if you logged onto any apartment-search portal. Modular kitchen, TV, AC, bathroom with Western commode, and two balconies... you just know the house when you hear those catch-phrases.
And there's more that's familiar. Like power cuts. Or water that'll come only in the morning and should you be asleep you're going to have to use Bisleri to brush your teeth. There's an awfully stuck door that doesn't lock properly and needs a good budge to open.
And it is that door that gets locked from the outside by a sequence of not improbable events. Shaurya, now stuck in the house, tries to call a locksmith, but the signal is bad. He yells out for help but no one can hear him (the building is in some litigation and thus unoccupied). His phone's battery dies soon, and there's a power cut.
What follows is the urban version of survival-in-the-wild. Without power, water, food or communication, Shaurya is stuck in that desolate apartment trying to stay alive while trying to escape from his predicament.
Trapped is a survival film mocking us at the civilisation we've made. One where flawed technology and poor design are sold with a certainty that they'll enrich your life. The remoteness of human interactions and the lack of sturdy bonds are so commonplace that we forget how inhuman such existence can be. Really, seen in survival film terms, you don't need an island when everyone lives like an island of their own.
And this survival film isn't very comfortable to watch. When it's 127 Hours
, you know Aron Ralston may have lost his hand but not his soul. Shaurya, though, is a strict vegetarian. He's a diffident fellow with little in his life to call his own. So it's soul-crushing to watch him contemplate eating whatever life form is available to him in his urban island.
Motwane's direction feels straightforward in the beginning when he's building a romance between Shaurya and Noorie (Gitanjali Thapa glows in her short role). But soon you have a film where you forget to register the nuances of the filmmaking or its contrivances.
The dull claustrophobic frames and the gloomy but pulsing beats soon give way to a movie which works even if it worries. When you begin to believe Trapped's story, Rajkumar Rao's built bod stops registering as an inconsistency (Shaurya is not the guy you'd expect to hit the gym and chisel pecs). You only marvel at the near-perfect rendition of desperation mixed with determination.
It is an uncomfortable film. It isn't life-affirming or something you will want to see to gain inspiration. Its very existence is something we'd like to forget, quite like many other urban phenomena. Just the way we'd like to forget the possibility that the kid begging at the traffic signal was trafficked and is beaten everyday. Or the statistic that at least 50% of women who travel by public bus have been molested. Or the likelihood that your apartment complex may not be compliant with safety rules and you could one day be face-to-face with a fire extinguisher that doesn't work.
These are very inconvenient to remember or acknowledge. Which is why we can't recommend Trapped. Enough.