Sushant Singh Rajput and Bhumi Pednekar’s 'Sonchiriya' is gory, gripping and grows on you

'Sonchiriya' holds a mirror up to society and exposes our flaws. It is not for the fainthearted. I am going with 3.5 stars out of 5.

 |  3-minute read |   01-03-2019
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Of the two films that released today — 1 March — Sonchiriya and Luka Chuppi, the latter is opening to a full house. The former, on the other hand, has empty chairs staring at the screen, with a handful of potbellied uncles walking into this one, just so they can put their feet up and doze off in the AC. Clearly, the mood of the nation is such that they do not want to walk into a fictional tale that is so close to reality — of bloodshed, and a sense of nihilistic fear, one that has no silver lining.

The Sushant Singh Rajput, Manoj Bajpayee, Ranvir Shorey, Ashutosh Rana and Bhumi Pednekar starrer, from the trailer itself, gave you a sense of what to expect.

It is a dacoit drama set in the Chambal — a place our generation has grown up associating only with such stories. We’ve seen films that have depicted Phoolan Devi and others that have characters inspired by Gabbar Singh — all real dakus.

Sonchiriya offers the story of a gang led by Man Singh, a Thakur.

At times, the deafening sound of bullets being fired, the gory sight of blood splattering, the still gaze of dead bodies piling up and the dry sand that blows over it all makes you quite uncomfortable. You awkwardly sip on your coffee, hoping the feeling will go away.

And then, the emotional nuance the film offers becomes a balm.

collage_030119031538.jpgStills from Sonchiriya. (Source: YouTube screengrab/Art: DailyO)

In that, Abhishek Chaubey deserves applause, for not only keeping the seesawing of violence, emotion, emotional violence and violent emotions intact, but also for not letting the film, the actors and you ever get out of character. The language of the film — Bundelkhandi — helps achieve that.

Manoj, as the just gang leader, burdened by guilt, is brilliant.

Ranvir as the misguided sentimentalist makes you want to slap him back to realisation, and when he finally does realise, makes you want to wipe away his tears. Ashutosh as the vengeful ‘daroga’ only has blood on his mind. He is driven by a personal grudge, and even though you understand him, you know that it is never right to be driven thus by emotions. Sushant is the star in the film. He is very good — but it is still his character that I have a problem with.

You could sense Abhishek's dilemma — he wanted both a star and a regular 'lemonchus'-sucking Lakhna. While the latter prevailed for the most part, enthralling the audience, the former sometimes managed to escape, walking out of a house with swagger after killing no less than10 enemies. His heroics could have been controlled — in fact, should have been controlled.

But then, is it even a Hindi film if heroics are curbed?

Bhumi, as the embodiment of the moral thread the film treads on, is outstanding. She is a ‘baaghi’ — a rebel like the rest of the dakus, but in her own way, for she’s raised her voice against oppression, just like them. Her ‘karam’ is defined by her ‘dharam,’ just like them.

But what is the ‘dharam’ of a daaku, a rebel? The film asks over and over again.

The Chambal has seen rebel groups from the Thakur community, Gujjar community and Mallhar community, fighting against the wrongdoings of the establishment — does that mean all these three castes are one now, against a common enemy? A chance dialogue between Phoolan Devi, a Mallhar, and Indumati Tomar, Bhumi’s character, a Thakur, answers that question when Phoolan Devi says caste divides men. Women, on the other hand, have no caste. They’re below everything else.

And in that, even though set in 1975, Sonchiriya holds a mirror up to the society of 2019 too.

I am going with 3.5 stars out of 5, but with a statutory warning — it is not for the fainthearted.

Also read: From 'Sholay' to 'Sonchiriya': Bollywood's dacoit dramas through the years

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