After Udta Punjab, Abhishek Chaubey would be thanking his stars for the largely non-controversial build-up to Sonchiriya. However, the buzz is low and the movie needs word-of-mouth in abundance to take it to the finishing line. Will that be the case for the period crime drama? Do Sushant Singh Rajput and Bhumi Pednekar, both having at least three other films in their kitty, justify their 'sought-after' tag? Read on:
Man Singh (Manoj Bajpayee) leads a group of dacoits which include Lakhna (Sushant Singh Rajput), Vakil Singh (Ranvir Shorey) in the ravines of Chambal, Madhya Pradesh. Special Task Force, led by Virender Singh Gujjar (Ashutosh Rana), is out to get the gang dead or alive to clean up Chambal. As the gang lands uninvited at a bride's house to rob the wealthy family, the STF are already all set to nail the dacoits. The encounter between the two groups leads to the crumbling of the gang. As the cat-and-mouse chase continues, Lakhna and Vakila meet Indumati Tomar (Bhumi Pednekar) and a little girl in distress. The dacoits not just have to protect themselves from danger, but have the additional responsibility of their two new companions.
The film is set in Chambal during the Emergency era in 1975. It traces the journey of Man Singh's gang as they are on the run from cops, but have to go ahead with their activities for survival. Immense religious beliefs involving superstitions, conflicts and lack of trust among the members, supreme devotion to their leader and importance of following the rebel rules are what constitutes the gang. While Lakhna wonders what the rebel rules are and doesn’t mind surrendering to the cops, others in the gang feel rebels always live and die in the ravines. Man Singh and Lakhna’s goof-up, which leaves them hallucinating occasionally, leads to STF’s Gujjar vowing to destroy them at all costs. How the encounter between dacoits and cops rips apart the gang, how Indumati and her family comes into the picture and how Lakhna decides to take her and the girl to safety amid hurdles galore is what the film is all about.
Sonchiriya is not a bad film, but it doesn't create that 'wow' feeling on the whole. It’s possible you might leave the theatre, asking yourself if you liked it or not. For those who might’ve felt the movie is ‘boring’ looking at the trailer, it is surely not so and keeps you hooked for most of its 146 minutes running time. However, those looking for ‘masala’ most probably won’t be all that satisfied with Sonchiriya.
The movie is filled with subtle hints about real-life incidents/persons like Sonchiriya (Golden Bird) India used to be known as once upon a time, Emergency, Phoolan Devi and those well-versed with politics might succeed in figuring out its metaphorical references. Caste equations, patriarchy, gender discrimination, sexual harassment and many other social issues have been highlighted well in the movie.
Sushant is good, but neither his character nor his performance evokes that feeling where we are rooting for him or empathising with him, which should be the case for a protagonist. Bhumi is outstanding, be it with the rifle in her hands or with her dialogues and emotions. Manoj Bajpayee, even in a brief role, is a class apart. Incidentally, he once again plays the character of Man Singh, 20 years after he had done so in Shekhar Kapur’s ‘Bandit Queen’, based on Phoolan Devi. Ranvir Shorey and Ashutosh Rana are dependably good in most of their movies, and it was not any different time either. Supporting cast is brilliant.
The technical department is almost flawless. Abhishek Chaubey has directed the movie superbly. Picturisation of the action sequences, effective locations, perfect costumes and its capturing through impressive cinematography gave a real feel to the movie. Background music and the songs composed by Vishal Bhardwaj are top-notch and create intensity. The dialogues in the local language (with English subtitles) are good and you’ll be surprised to find yourself laughing numerous times even in the ‘intense’ movie, courtesy the witty one-liners.
Overall, Sonchiriya is a well-directed crime drama that lacks the impactful punch which could have left the audiences overwhelmed.
Cast: Sushant Singh Rajput, Bhumi Pednekar, Manoj Bajpayee, Ranvir Shorey, Ashutosh Rana
What's good: Direction, performances, action sequences, locations, music
What's bad: Screenplay lacked the punch
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