Camera Person: Shiv Kumar Maurya
Video Editor: Rahul Sanpui
Video Producer: Chandni Sharma
Love Sonia starts of innocuously. Two sisters Preeti (Riya Sisodiya) and Sonia (Mrunal Thakur) capering around each other share a joke about a fellow classmate they fancy. There are shy glances, innocent chatter about emails, butterflies and a romantic first kiss.
But the foreboding tone is unmissable. Life as it comes to them brings in its wake a devastating turn that sullies their world.
Their drought stricken farmer father (Adil Hussain) is on the brink of a breakdown. The only solution he can think of is to sell off his older daughter Preeti to the local landlord Dada Thakur (Anupam Kher). Adil Hussain expertly mines the weariness on his face as we try and fathom his helplessness. Wailing and howling Preeti is forcefully handed off to Anjali (Sai Tamhankar) who whisks her away to Mumbai where she is supposed to be put to “work”. Sonia cant anticipate what fate awaits her sister but unable to bear the separation she stealthily leaves home to meet Dada Thakur in the dead of night. Having crossed the rubicon as it were there is never any time left to turn back.
Helmed by Tabrez Noorani, Love Sonia is a hard-hitting and disturbing portrayal of the world of commercial sex workers and human trafficking and seems to stem from a deep level of understanding and empathy for their plight.
We look at the dark underbelly of Mumbai through the stricken eyes of Sonia. The narrow serpentine walls closing in, suffocating this young girl with immeasurable pain. Writers Tabrez Noorani, Ted Caplan and Alkesh Vaja expertly weave in violence, betrayal and little fleeting hope dunking the tale in stark realism. Sonia suffers and surrenders to all the traumatic experiences with a resolute stubbornness to meet her missing sister, her only raison d’être in the hellish times she is in. There is something about the hauntingly innocent stare of Sonia.
It’s heartbreaking to see the insentient and chilling realities of sex trade with a diabolic nexus between the police and kingpins in the crime world.
We meet various characters through Sonia, from a kind hotel manager who senses something is wrong and warns her to policemen who snigger and turn a blind eye to all the crime. The well-chosen ensemble cast never lets us down. Even if for a couple of scenes but each one crafts an evocative performance. There’s Anupam Kher as the slimy money lender who is unmoved by the plight of the girls or their father. Sai Tamhanker does a great job at being the unfeeling handler who turns unsuspecting girls over to buyers. Manoj Bajpayee’s Faisal is another powerful performance as he imbues his role with duplicity and a sinister vibe. Rajkumar Rao is always dependable as a well meaning NGO worker .
Love Sonia doesn’t just explore the gut-wrenching realities of the flesh trade and how cruelly these woman get transported sometimes even to international clients resulting in unspeakable horrors, but also an intimate understanding of the plight of women and their shared pain.
Freida Pinto’s finely crafted performance as the capricious sex worker with a tragic back story of her own or Richa Chadha as the unfeeling brothel ‘madam’ are characters we will remember long after the film is over.
But Love Sonia in every sense belongs to Mrunal Thakur. She is already a well known face in the television circuit but her strikingly self assured performance makes a powerful impact. She works the silent moments brilliantly and it is to her credit largely that Love Sonia stands out as a disturbingly haunting and well-crafted film.
I give it 4 quints out of 5.
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