Date: 14 September 2018
Director: Tabrez Noorani
Cast: Mrunal Ṭhakur, Freida Pinṭo,Richa Chaḍha, Manoj Bajpayee, Adil Hussain, Rajkumar Rao.
The opening shot of the film has a schoolboy in a remote village trying to capture a butterfly in a glass jar; he opens the jar briefly and as the butterfly flutters to escape, it is trapped into caressing his cheek referred to as a ‘kiss’ the boy’s face tightly pressed against the jar.
The image is a metaphor for what the story has to unfold.
Preeti/ Riya Sidodiya and Sonia/ Mrunal Ṭhakur are cheerful as long as they at school because once home, they are the mercy of their angry father/Adil Hussain, an impoverished farmer who makes them slog on the field all day and curses them for being born as daughters at night.
Misfortune propels him to sell his older daughter to Dada Ṭhakur/Anupam Kher and when Sonia learns that Priti has been taken to Mumbai she escapes home to find her sister and is inevitably trapped into the flesh trade herself.
Love Sonia is about the tragedy of global sex trafficking in helpless minors. Director Tabrez Noorani who has been line producer for Hollywood films set in India aided by his writers (Shah/ Vaja/ Caplen) through a stirring tale of siblings’ journeys us to the inner working of a brothel. This isn’t the first time we are exposed to the cruel side of humanity but what sets apart Noorani is his intention to use cinema to lend a voice to the oppressed.
In a jarring scene, Richa Chaḍha describes the brothel to a Chakla – a place without doors and windows and we can sense the claustrophobia of the underbelly through dark streets and darker deeds.
New girls unwilling to obey orders are burnt, beaten, chained to the bed, locked in the dungeon and pushed to clean filthy toilets. After a police raid, the girls are drugged and cooped inside a container and smuggled to Hong Kong and further, their misery beautifully captured via never-ending flyovers and neon lights in different cities combined with a heart-rending score from Neils and A R Rehman.
The negative is that the pace slows down in the second half and the climax is unrealistic.
The positives are the performances – Adil Hussain, Anupam Kher, Manoj Bajpayee send shivers down your spine while you empathize with Riya Sisodiya, Richa Chaḍha and Freida Pinṭo but the film finally belongs to Sonia/ Mrunal Ṭhakur whose expressive face and eyes haunt you long after the film is over. Brave of her to choose this as her debut!
Love Sonia is stifling, disturbing, immensely depressing but the cruelties are understated. Watch it despite the melancholy to feel gratitude that you don’t know and never know any Sonia in your life.
I rate Love Sonia with 3.5 stars.
Bhawana Somaaya/ @bhawanasomaaya