How exhausting is it to be a woman in a city like Delhi, in a patriarchal country like India? Do you realize how it feels to be an onerous woman…to belong to that section of the society that seems to be cursed because of them being in a different body than that of a man? Worse, being in a position to protect yourself but being shunned if you do so for the sole reason that you are a woman?
‘Soni’ revolves around the story of two police women and the challenges faced by them at work and at home. It is a powerful and thought provoking tale about how women in India have to give up on things that they do not want to give up on, only because of the country’s male dominance that makes it impossible for them to live their lives on their own terms. It could be anything, starting from the occupation she chooses to the clothes she wants to wear, there is no decision that she may take without being tormented for the fact that she is, but a woman.
The movie’s opening scene, also the start of its trailer, is where Soni (Geetika Vidya Ohlyan) is being eve-teased on her way to the Police station. She does not flinch, as though it were an accepted behaviour towards a woman at night, even though she is a police woman. However she finally has had enough and bashes him up as she nears the police station for which she is reprimanded. She is warned over and over to control her anger. Later in the film, she is deposed to the control room after thrashing a navy official because he was drunk-driving and behaving in a lewd manner with her. Her superior, IPS Kalpana Ummat (Saloni Batra) faces the backlash for Soni’s actions. However Kalpana is dealing with her own challenges being married to a police superior- Sandeep (Mohit Chauhan). She is put into situations where society says, the woman must give in to save the relationship. Like every other Indian woman touching the age of 30, she is questioned and prodded to have children soon because ‘a woman has her biological clock ticking’. Huma (Gauri Chakraborty) and Mummy Ji (Mohinder Gujral) demand that Soni and Kalpana ought to be more ‘womanly’ and ought to live up to the standards set by the society for them.
The film quietly depicts the appalling circumstances that have become an everyday thing for women- the words, the situations and the kind of thoughts imposed upon them to lose their sense of individuality and be reduced to just being a woman.
Bringing out a few positives,
- Cinematography: The movie is mostly shot at night or early into the dawn before the sunrise to convey the darkness of this issue. One hitting scene is that of Soni returning from work early in the morning and lighting a dhoop batti and a diya implying that there is hope somewhere, for women. Another pricking scene is at Kalpana’s niece’s party where her in-laws, indirectly taunt her and Soni that every officer these days wants to become The Bandit Queen or Kiran Bedi. It is a surprising choice of genre for the debutant writer-director Ivan Ayr. A thoroughly well shot and immensely impactful story is not any director’s cup of tea and Ivan Ayr has proven his talent with ‘Soni’.
- Screenplay and Dialogues: The writers have kept the narration of the story very simple and to the point. Almost every scene is going to reveal one disgusting feeling that a woman is forced to swallow down in her everyday life, if not that, then the revolting thought of how women are, in comparison, not an important issue or just another ‘thing’ to be dealt with. The dialogues are written and delivered an ‘everyday tone’ which makes the film very relatable to every person. There is no background score apart from its theme music, yet the movie proves to be extremely engaging from the very first to the last scene.
- Title: The title’s appropriateness is truly commendable. ‘Soni’ (Punjabi / Hindi = Pyaari) translates to loving / pretty / dearest which are commonly used words to describe a woman. But women are not treated with the same delicacy- with love or respect. Their soft attitudes are taken advantage of and if they make an effort to change to that by, for example, becoming a police officer, they are still victim to gender politics. The title is a sarcastic smile to every fearless woman in the country.
Inspired by the Delhi 2012 gang rape, each scene of ‘Soni’ is a slap on a man’s face for being but, the privileged man in India. It is a dose of reality being fed to our everyday existence.
Owing to its impact, the movie premiered in the Orrizonti (Horizons) section of the 75th Venice International Film Festival. It was also screened at the MAMI Film Festival, 2018 and is currently streaming on Netflix.
It is a hauntingly brilliant movie that bags 4.5 chirps from us!