The film begins with a beautiful sequence—a teenage boy captures a butterfly and then puts up a show of how butterfly ‘kisses’ you by fluttering her wings on one’s cheeks pressed against the bottle in which it is caged.
And somehow, it gives you a feeling of the sadness and tragedy hanging heavy on the entire sequence. Love Sonia is a film about flesh trade particularly girl child trafficking. Usually, Hindi cinema glamorises the nautch girls and uses them as a tool to give some popular dance numbers which subsequently screech loudly on the loud speakers during any festival or marriage.
But Love Sonia is different, in the sense that watching it stirs up a feeling of disgust. A peculiar nausea starts churning your insides. Because the film just opens up the seams of the red light area as it is, without making any attempt to make it look beautiful, even visually.
The characters in that red light area also seem to move around like zombies. An overwhelming feeling of human flesh takes over you so much so that you want to puke.
The story is simple, almost cliched. But it is so close to reality that the cliché is almost palatable. A poor farmer sells off his elder, fairer and supposedly prettier daughter- Preeti to the rich village landlord. While he wants his other daughter Sonia to work on his fields because she is sturdy but is not pretty like her sister. She longs to find her sister.
Sonia finally decides to find Preeti and chooses to run away from home with the landlord’s hired pimp, who sells her in Mumbai’s red-light area. Now her life becomes a nightmare. A harrowing string of events of oral sex, anal sex and other sexual acts leads her to her sister who has by now turned into a drug addict prostitute. But Sonia has this unflinching faith and hopes that some day everything will be alright.
Manoj Bajpayee, as the dreaded don of the brothel, Faisal is very impactful. If we talk about actors, almost everyone has excelled, barring Freida Pinto, who somehow doesn’t impress even though her character is supported by a very strong story line. Richa Chaddha, the ‘manager’ prostitute of the brothel gave a stunning performance. Mrunal Thakur as Sonia is par excellent.
But the real credit for the entire film goes to the director. Tabrez Noorani, who worked on this story for three long years has portrayed the entire film with sensitivity and ruthlessness. The dark world of flesh trade which keeps thriving on the margins of our society is presented as it is- dark, dirty, depressing, dingy and scary to the core.
When Faisal sells Sonia only for a cigarette, the stark scene without any dialogues or music gives you goosebumps.
The only flaw of the film however is its international character. The absence of the regional flavour makes you feel as if something is missing; the characters, set in a village in Maharashtra speaking urban Hindi does not gel well with the mood of the film. But that perhaps is the drawback you must simply bear with when an Indian film is made to comply with international standards.
The pace of the film is also something which may not go down well with the box office requirements. Particularly in the latter half, the film starts unfolding rather predictably.
This is not a feel-good film which you would like to watch as a weekend entertainment. But this is a film one should watch to have a feel of the underbelly of our society and of how we treat our women and farmers.
In the times, when our society is ridden with rampant incidents of rape, murder, forced sex on one hand and glamorous objectification of women on the other—this film, however repelling feeling it leaves you with, should be watched.
You can watch the review of the film here: