“Trapped” Will Leave You Gasping For Breath

Posted by Ayan Joshi in Culture-Vulture
March 18, 2017

With our eyes glued to the screen, all of us were captivated in the cinema hall throughout Vikramaditya Motwane’s “Trapped”.

“This is the time when this film had to be made. 10 years ago, there were not these many skyscrapers, and 10 years from now all these high-rises will be inhabited by people,” highlighted Motwane, while addressing a gathering of film lovers at Le Reve, Bandra for the special premiere of his latest film.

Trapped Poster“Trapped”, as is evident from its well-received trailer, is a classic ‘struggle-to-escape, struggle-to-survive’ film. Films fitting in this sphere have been many: Even last year’s multiple Academy award winning “The Revenant” fits the bill. One of my personal favorites in ‘the-struggle-to-escape’ zone is the 2007 psychological horror, “1408”. Those who have seen it might draw certain allusions as well. The existence of such films is not new in global cinema, neither is the thematic exploration of claustrophobia. So what is it that makes “Trapped” work?

It is its subtlety and finesse. And the fact that it could happen to anyone of us despite how cautious we are in going about our daily lives. Unlike “The Revenant”, the struggle for survival is in the wilderness, nor is the danger supernatural as we see in “1408”.

There are no bad guys, antagonist, or sinister forces at work here. No one traps Shaurya (the protagonist, played by Rajkummar Rao). But still he is trapped – with circumstances, probability, and sheer bad luck having played their part.

There is a constant sense of lurking danger, shock, insecurity and sharp restlessness that simmers within us throughout the runtime. Most of these emotions arise from the fact that it could happen to anyone, maybe not with the same intensity or under the same circumstances (Rajkummar Rao is trapped for a course of several weeks in a house he has just rented), but it could happen.

Just look at the breakdown of events: Desperate house hunt leading to shady places, partially occupied/under construction high rises, jammed locks, flimsy knobs, dense grills, deeper shafts, lack of electricity and water, rodent scare, mobile’s battery dying and the charger not working. These are all things that we encounter on a daily basis, but in isolation and thus might not be that disturbed by. “Trapped” just brings forth the possibility of a combination of these things happening together, and our mind immediately sets itself on the ‘what if?’ track. As the drama unfolds we find ourselves at the edge of our seats, occupied, thinking of all the possibilities for survival, taking it is as our own struggle.

One after another, from bad to worse, situations play out unapologetically in this nail biting drama. The premise works because of all the elements, which have been put so credibly and with such precise craft.

Trapped has all departments working in tandem to create an engrossing experience. Be it Siddharth Diwan’s cinematography, or Nitin Baid’s edits, or Anish John’s sound. They not only bring technical finesse to the table but also add artistic merit to the film.

However what interests me most in this film is its process and how it came along.

Vikramaditya Motwane, found this story as a random mail in his inbox, sent by writer Amit Joshi. Motwane knew that he wanted to tell this story, and requested Joshi to send the full screenplay, which he did two months later.

The screenplay that went on the floor, penned by Amit Joshi and Hardik Mehta, was barely 32 pages long (conventions equate one page of screenplay to roughly one minute of screen time). And the rest of the filmmaking process, in Motwane’s own words, was about following the performance of Rajkummar.

Rajkummar during this time ate only carrots and pushed to isolate himself to delve deeper into the character. These efforts render authenticity to his earnest ‘film-making’ performance. Also, the house scenes were shot in a linear order (according to how they actually appear in the film), an extremely rare and great privilege that aided Motwane to get a seamless character graph.

What Works For The Film (Spoiler Alert):

1) The setting: Shaurya’s struggle doesn’t take place somewhere remote. It happens right there, close to the world he is used to, yet so isolated and distanced from it. The house in itself is a character – urban, sad, awaiting acceptance.

2) Invisible barriers: Grills, deep shaft, and glass are the physical barriers, but being lost in a concrete jungle, with no one by your side, no one knowing where you are, not being heard, not being seen but being able to hear and see are the barriers that break the character, and give us the scare.

3) Playing on hope: A woman tries to reach out to Shaurya after stumbling on a blood written placard he had thrown from the window. The sequence plays with our anticipations at every step to create worthy suspense.

4) Visual poetry: Rajkummar harvesting water in the rain. The scene not only introduces amazing production design, but also is visual poetry on hope.

5) The comic inserts: I will not spoil them for you. Stellar examples of rib tickling, while spine feels the chill.

6) Rat: The unexpected friend on the island.

7) Constant action: “Trapped” is not a passive film. It pushes you to work and think of tactics while you’re on it.

8) Tying all ends: It doesn’t leave much to the imagination. You know the character will be back to his routine life (the life which would have been even before the film started), though much has occurred along the way.

9) No interval: A niche in Indian commercial movie screening, it makes sure that you leave the film’s world only after it is over.

Trapped is an experience that you must embrace.