Cast: Sushant Singh Rajput, Bhumi Pednekar, Manoj Bajpayee, Ashutosh Frog
Director: Abhishek Chaubey
Rating: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
The director and co-author Abhishek Chaubey, working with a magnificent script by Sudip Sharma and with the help of first class camera work (Anuj Rakesh Dhawan), editing (Meghna Sen), sound design and background score (Bendict Taylor and Naren Chandavarkar), craftsmanship A haunting and unvarnished cinematographic portrait of the violence and its repercussions in Sonchiriya, an immersive dramatic drama set in the hard and dusty ravines of Chambal in the 1970s. The film completely alters the conventions of gender. Draw the themes of crime and retribution, caste and gender, despair and redemption in the almost mythical and global sweep of the narrative.
The actors at Chaubey’s disposal: the acquaintances (Manoj Bajpayee, Sushant Singh Rajput, Bhumi Pednekar, Ashutosh Frog, Ranvir Shorey) and the not so well-known (Jatin Sarna, Harish Khanna, Sanjay Shrivastava, all seasoned theater actors) merge so perfect with the environment of this saga filmed in real places that it seems that they do not act for the camera, but live and breathe the parts. It’s an amazingly impeccable ensemble show.
Review of the film Sonchiriya: Sushant Singh Rajput, Manoj Bajpayee and others in a movie (Image courtesy: Instagram)
Bajpayee is a class act once again, Rana smiles with intent, Shorey is fire and brimstone, Rajput exudes anguish and determination in equal measure and Pednekar reclaims his space in the male-dominated cast and bans with a measured turn that evokes affirmative life Ennobling compassion.
The outlaws dealt with in this film are not glamorous fugitives running over sturdy stallions like knights in shining armor. They survive with frugal meals and their weapons are, at best, simply functional. In one scene, a weapons smuggler offers them better weapons: Rs. 35,000 for one and Rs. 60,000 for two, remember that the period is in the mid-1970s, but the head of the dreaded Thakurs gang is too limited to get money for the deal.
His men are deeply conflicted individuals who have rebelled against a society that has left them aside; they talk repeatedly about their sad situation and, in their softest moments, they allow themselves to dream normally after having surrendered and fulfilled their prison sentences, and inevitably. We have to deal with the moral dilemmas that accompany violence and its consequences. Memories of an involuntary bloodbath that they caused in a Gujjar village chase the thieves, defining their subsequent acts of despair and redemption.
Sonchiriya announces his intentions even before the light comes on the screen: the buzzing of the flies in the soundtrack takes us from a dark frame to an extreme shot of a dead snake that is in the path of the Thakur band. The stench of death and fear pervades this unshakeable investigation into the pitfalls of rebellion and malevolent masculinity seeking the blessings of a Mother Goddess, Maa Bhavani, the reigning deity of the Chambal Valley. But this is, at the same time, a place where rape and repression are rampant and women are condemned to a veiled and unveiled existence. What stands out instantly about Sonchiriya is that the scandalous portrayal of patriarchy and the prejudices it paints, despite having been placed for more than four decades, remains disturbingly relevant.
Equally interesting in this story about guilt and atonement, here, lives must be put in danger every day and every hour in the pursuit of self-preservation, is its strong ethical foundation. One of the key points of the plot in the film refers to the character of Man Singh (Manoj Bajpayee in a special outstanding appearance) making a fatal exit conducted purely by a call of conscience. One of his two most reliable men, Lakhan Singh (Sushant Singh Rajput), warns him of the grave dangers that lie ahead. The other, Vakil Singh (Ranvir Shorey), decides to follow his leader without questioning him.