Rajkummar Rao steals the show with Vikramaditya Motwane's Trapped
The 32-year-old actor sets his bar high in the Bollywood fraternity with this movie
What would you do if you were trapped in a high-rise for days without food, water or company? Eat a bird although you are vegetarian? Check. Drink your own urine to quench your thirst? Check. Talk to a rat for company's sake? Check.
The incredibly gifted Rajkummar Rao, no stranger to internalised performances, immerses himself into the judiciously assembled plot with such radiant authenticity that after a while we cease to watch the skill that underlines the outstanding performance. All we see is the suffering of the trapped soul, his desperation to get out of that apartment where Shourya is locked away far from civilisation though not even a road away from the bustle.
Unlike other great survival dramas like Robert Zemeckis' Castaway or Ang Lee's The Life Of Pi (the later exceedingly overpraised) Trapped is set right in the heart of a swarming city filled with people who, how do we put this politely?don't give a damn about the next person.
Motwane who last helmed the underwhelming Lootera brings out the apathy in the large city in a sequence where Rao announces his departure to his flat mates. They barely muster a response and one of them indifferently asks where he is going. Answer not relevant.
The preamble which includes a sudden eruption of romance with a woman Noorie (Geetanjali Thapa) ends just as suddenly once Rao's character is trapped in an apartment so far removed from human contact that no scream of help reaches anyone's ear. Its terrifying premise executed effectively by a script that relentlessly explores the theme of isolation and survival.
Cinematographer Siddharth Diwan is as fearless behind the camera as Rao is in the front. Together they shoot Shourya's growing decline and fading hope for rescue with minimalist magnificence. The shots are cut with no room for lingering woundedness. If Shourya bleeds we can't look away.
Rao's projection of his character's waning strength is as authentic as Tom Hanks in Castaway. Rao's Shourya is no islanded recluse. The little apartment perched smugly and stoically in the sky is all the world that Motwane's plot inhabits. There are no frills and no digressions. The background score by Aloknanda Dasgupta is used with rationed effect, quite like time, food water and hope running out on the protagonist.
The one time that the background score lights up the soundscape is when Shourya collects rainwater in every vessel he can find in his high-rise prison. It is an interlude that reminds us of what we have and what we take for granted can be snatched away within moments.
Even the flashbacks are severely restricted (just one, actually, when we see Shourya arguing passionately in favour of vegetarianism before being forced to eat a bird in the present crisis). What we get is the core element of survival. The very epicentre of self-preservation where no action or reaction is prohibited.
It is very difficult for one actor to hold our attention for two hours. Rajkummar Rao gets our undivided attention unconditionally. His character's awful predicament is so tangibly tactile as to leave us shaken for good.
Among the many remarkable hurdles that Motwane's storytelling crosses with its beleaguered protagonist is the whole idea of getting the geographical periphery of the crisis right. The apartment building, the isolated flat and its distance from any human contact are all measured out by the storytellers, so that we never feel we are being tricked into believing in Shourya's crisis.
At one point during the actor's journey from self-assertion to self-abnegation, and beyond, we see Rajkummar Rao's trousers fall off from his waist to the ground. This is probably a random unscheduled crisis that was allowed to remain on the editing table. It helps serve two purposes. It shows the character's complete repudiation of vanity in the face of death. It also shows how much weight the actor has lost in the course of his journey.
It's hard to imagine Trapped working so effectively without Rajkummar Rao. He lives every second of Shourya's struggle for self-preservation. His journey is so illustrative of a migrant's metropolitan melancholy as to make any attempt to add signboards to the storytelling is akin to shining torchlight to supplement sunlight.