Saturday, 2 March 2019


Sonchiriya opens with the buzzing sounds of flies hovering around a dead snake. Having encountered a dead snake in their path, a bunch of dacoits suggest taking another path since it is considered a bad omen. But their leader urges them to continue walking claiming that changing their direction will not help wash away their sins of the past.

Director Abhishek Chaubey wastes no time in setting up his riveting premise and makes it conspicuous from this very first frame that we are in for an unsettling ride. He, along with co-writer Sudip Sharma (writer of NH-10 and Udta Punjab), whip up a tense thriller of dacoits in Chambal who seek to escape not only the system but also their inner conscience and guilt.

Fashioned as a minefield of emotional outbursts, traumatic visuals of the ghosts of the past, gang rivalry, internal feuds, dark humor and much more, the script offers a fresh spin on the regular dacoit-drama by throwing in twist after twist to sustain an atmosphere of impending doom throughout its running time.

Amidst all the gory and brilliantly staged shootout sequences, at the core of Sonchiriya is the tender bond that develops between a young girl and the dacoits, who consider her as their last chance to seek redemption. This track is what sets apart Sonchiriya from other films of the same genre.

Be warned though, the film isn't an easy watch. There are portions in the second half where your patience may begin to wear thin most likely because many scenes are shot with minimal lighting and the language spoken is bundelkhandi (constantly having to look at the subtitles might distract you a little). This is a minor price the makers were willing to pay to retain the authenticity of the film.

The film, ultimately, is brought alive by its assorted bunch of talented actors, whose conviction to get under the skin of each character is thoroughly satisfying and praiseworthy.

So that's 4/5 for Sonchiriya. Abhishek Chaubey yet again cements his position as one of India's most interesting filmmakers. Watch it because it has the pluck to be uncompromising and yet remain well within the boundaries of mainstream cinema.

Saturday, 26 January 2019


This is my first review of a Netflix original film. I watched Soni 2 days ago and still can’t seem to get it out of my head for many reasons. The fact that it stayed with me for so long after watching merits a detailed review.

Putting aside the superior craft of storytelling, Soni is an important and personal film. It holds a mirror to the society we live in, its patriarchal and orthodox beliefs, the biases enjoyed by the more privileged, the helpless police department which we generally take so much pride in and unmistakable misogyny that runs deep in the veins of our system. Sure, all of the above have been discussed at length innumerable times in Bollywood but we are always given a more dramatized version of the incidents. In Soni, however, debutante director Ivan Ayr very well understands that the inherent nature of the system is so exaggerated that all he needs to do is present Delhi in its raw, vulnerable form. The film has a beautiful understated tone that doesn’t require any showy dialogues or reactions to underline the gravity of the moment in a scene. It has no plot to speak of as such, but is more of a stripped down character study that was reminiscent of Asghar Farhadi’s (who I think is one of the best filmmakers in the world) films except that the characters here aren’t as grey as the ones in his films.

Ivan skillfully taps into the energy of silence and the pauses in a scene to transport the viewer right in the middle of the action. Rarely does a film invite its audience to enter the head space of its characters and witness who they actually are and what their thought process is. Also, technically speaking, every scene is shot in a single take which enhances the viewing experience manifold. Since I’m a sucker for long, single takes, I just admired the efforts gone into conceiving each scene so seamlessly, even if there is pretty much nothing significant happening in it. The film remains grounded for most part thanks to the actors who inhabit this space. Here, you’ll find  acting of the highest order even by characters who literally appear in just one scene.

In the end, Soni is an unflinching and an ultimately disturbing film which doesn’t offer any easy answers but sure makes an effort to change the way we perceive the rampant corruption and chauvinism around us. Don’t miss it!