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Soni Movie Review: It Is The Dark Horse Of 2019

Soni(Netflix)

Starring: Geetika  Vidya Ohlyan,Saloni Batra

Directed  by Ivan Ayr

Rating: *****(5 stars)

 Netflix’s prized  find  of this  year  opens with  a girl cycling  down a deserted road  in the dead  of  the night.She  is being  followed by ….for the want of  stronger word…an eve-teaser who cycles  lasciviously behind and beside her, pelting  with  his  perverse chant.

I won’t reveal how this terrifying sequence  on Delhi’s horror roadway concludes. Suffice it to say, this unheard-of masterpiece with a cast of completely  new actors, brings  an  experience from the lives of the women in Delhi’s police force without exaggerating, dramatizing or sentimentalizing their thankless work.

Dammit, this gem of a film(where the sparkle is  never a  showroom salespitch) doesn’t even get judgmental about those  highhanded elements on the roads  of  Delhi who  think  they own it.They have their own code of conduct  to follow.The goons and  louts in the film are scarily “normal” . In one terrifying encounter with ruffians in a ladies’ washroom  one of  them refers to the singing  legend reverentially as  ‘Lataji’

Soni enters  the  life of  two female  cops who become ,for the want  of  a better term, the plot owners. Soni(Geetika  VidyaOhlyan) lives alone in a modest Delhi apartment, spends the entire  night tracking down molesters and other habitual offenders, returns to an empty home in  the morning,  seldom cooks(the gas cylinder has been empty for a while and there is no one to replenish  it), grabs two-egg omelettes  during duty for dinner,  and  negotiates with  worn-down patiently with  a kindhearted neighbour’s meddlesome ministrations and  a husband pleading  to come  back .

We don’t know what happened between Soni and  her  estranged husband. And frankly she has  no time to  care.

First-time director Ivan Ayr captures  the rhythms  of  Soni’s   life with  candour and  conviction and  little room for self-congratulation. As the  narration moves forward  it  binds Soni with her senior office Kalpana(Salomi Batra) who has  to deal with  the constant conflicts  of interest between  her home and  profession.

Both the  principal actors Geetika and Saloni are  absolutely unspoilt  by  camera technique. They  take over  the  proceedings with a lack of fuss and  an absolute disregard  for the  rules  of the acting craft.

They are  not alone. The  film is populated  by actors who  don’t ‘act’. This is the first film I’ve seen in my entire life which  doesn’t have  a single known  or recognizable   face. The fact that the characters are ‘faceless’ certainly makes them  more tenable, urgent . By the  time we  are 5 minutesdirector  Ayr’s  beat, we are  looking  not at artistic brilliance but  a rare  kind authenticity that Govind Nihalani’s  classic  cops  saga  Ardh Satya had obtained  for  itself 36 years ago.

Soni’s  anger-management problems reminded me  of  Om Puri  in  Ardha Satya. Except  for  one radical difference. Puri’s Anant Velankar  could vent his spleen on one corrupt politician who embodied all the  menace  of corruption. By killing one man Anant felt vindicated.

Soni’s fight against  a corrupt  rotten system is far less manageable. Throughout the  film there is a mood of clamped suffocation gripping the heart  of  the characters.  If the satya be told , then Anant could identify  his enemy. Soni doesn’t even know  whom she  is  fighting.Her  fight against a putrid  system  is  terrifying not because  of her gender but because there  is no one to  pin the blame on.

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