Siddharth Chauhan’s Amar Colony has a sure sense of place but a slippery hold on its narrative. Chauhan’s Hindi-language movie is set not in the New Delhi neighbourhood but in a housing complex in a Himalayan town.

Amar Colony resembles a grid and serves as a cage of sorts for its residents. In this heritage structure with wooden detailing and high-ceilinged rooms, a set of families pursue stifled, ossified lives.

The wheelchair-bound Devki (Sangeeta Agrawal) and her son Mohit (Ayush Srivastava) are locked in daily squabbles. The elderly Durga (Usha Chauhan) has suspicions about her husband. New entrant Meera (Nimisha Nair) is heavily pregnant and prone to crushing tomatoes in her frustration over her distant husband Akarshan (Sreejith Vijay).

Made in 2022, Amar Colony has been released on the streaming platform Open Theatre. Chauhan’s debut feature has striking camerawork by Modhura Palit, impressively detailed production design by Avyakta Kapur, and an editing pattern by Paresh Kamdar that adds to the intrigue created by oddball characters.

Although Chauhan’s fragmented screenplay isn’t entirely successful in conveying the rot in traditional family structures, he does create a few solid scenes in which the repression, hypocrisy, and yearning for escape come through. More than Meera’s pursuit of pleasure, the strand revolving around Devki and Mohit has the strongest potential. The exploration of Amar Colony’s constricted spaces gives a better sense of the film’s themes than the stilted conversations between the characters.

The Rosemary’s Baby feel in the initial portions gives way to surrealist escapades and gratuitous heavy breathing. The names of characters have a religious connotation that is sketchily explored. Most of the performances have a theatrical edge that doesn’t convey the inner lives of residents who, afraid to change their surroundings, turn on each other and themselves.

Amar Colony (2022).