Cast: Ali Fazal, Shriya Pilgaonkar, Barkha Singh, Jim Sarbh
Directors: Shashanka Ghosh and Samit Basu
Cinema has confined men, women and children in closed spaces--rooms in particular--often willfully. Sometimes, mistakenly. Lenny Abrahamson's Room confines a young woman to a room, well a kind of garage, for seven long years. She even gives birth to a boy, and he is not allowed to see the world outside by their captor.
In Home Alone, an eight-year-old boy is mistakenly locked up in his house while he family flies to Paris for Christmas! Vikramaditya Motwane's 2016 Trapped sees Rajkummar Rao trapped inside his flat for days without water or food. Both Home Alone and Trapped seem stretched and strange, even unbelievable. And Netflix's latest original in Hindi, House Arrest, is not very different either.
Shashanka Ghosh and Samit Basu cast Ali Fazal as a young man, who is so fed up with his work, people and the polluted environment in in his city that he shuts himself in his house, which is so well cared for that it appears manicured and like a museum. Does the man suffer from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?
House Arrest, the way we generally understand the term, is really not a nice word, and connotes horror in its most basic form. The world over, we have seen men and women being confined to their houses by the authorities. They are barred from leaving their homes. Yes, but some men like the legendary Iranian auteur, Jafar Panahi, has defied a curtailment of freedom of this sort. Panahi has been making movie after movie – escaping his house arrest on the sly. His Taxi even won him the Golden Bear at Berlin a few years ago!
But Fazal playing Karan in House Arrest locks himself from what he considers an inquisitive and interfering world. He does not let anyone come into his apartment – his food supplies are delivered at his doorstep. And he does not cross the line between his flat and the world beyond. It is a kind of 'Lakshman Rekha' for him.
The reasons for Karan's strange behaviour are not convincing enough. After all, why would a young, good looking, well employed guy walk out of his job, perhaps an exciting life and romance to shut himself in a house for six months.
The game would have gone on, but for a couple of developments. His neighbour, Pinky (Barkha Singh), breaks open Karan's front door and drops a huge box. You must keep it, she commands. And to his horror, he later discovers that there is a man inside it, all tied up. This man in a box is being copied ever so often from Pedro Almodovar's classic, Volver, that the whole concept is getting jaded. Here the character essayed by Penelope Cruz kills a man and dumps the body inside her freezer. Blood curdling all right.
Intruding into all this in House Arrest is a pretty journalist, Saira (Shriya Pilgaonkar), who comes in to interview the peculiar man who refuses to budge out. Somehow, she manages to get inside, and an exciting relationship between her and Karan begins.
House Arrest has hardly any surprises in store. It runs a very placid course and turns out to be a kind of bizarre fantasy. Karan's playboy pal, TBA (Jim Sarbh), has a few jokes up his sleeve. He is mischievous and loves to tease and taunt Karan – all the while trying to get him out of his flat. The journalist too is TBA's idea. Will it work?
(Gautaman Bhaskaran is author, commentator and movie critic)