Sonchiriya is an intense dacoit-based story that throws light on sexual abuse and caste-related violence backed by a superbly written screenplay
Indumati Tomar (Bhumi Pednekar) croons ‘Sonchiriya’ (sung by Rekha Bhardwaj in the composition of Vishal Bhardwaj) that has a haunting and calming effect. She is sitting with an ailing young girl as they are being rescued by dacoit Lakhna (Sushant Singh Rajput) on a boat. This moment comes immediately after the intermission as it leaves us in a state of serenity. This is also the moment when we get to know that Sonchiriya is, actually, the name of that young girl. This scene has a special place in my heart as it sprung like the sweet smell of soil that the air carries after the rainfall during peak summer. The film has such intense story that we yearn for the tranquillity, that this song produces, to remain with Indumati and the young girl as they have gone through a lot of sufferings due to the so-called caste and the sexual abuses.
Rooted in casteism and child sexual abuse, Abhishek Chaubey’s Sonchiriya portrays the life of dacoits, their internal conflicts, their continued battle against security forces and, most importantly, how they wind up saving the lives of Indumati and the young girl accompanied by her. The back-and-forth style of screenplay in Sonchiriya infused the film with ‘surprise’, ‘unknown’ and ‘guess’ elements. A small girl, for instance, flashes in the eyes of the dacoit Maan Singh (Manoj Bajpayee) early on in the film which frightens him. The relevance of that small girl comes much later and at the appropriate juncture in the story as Lakhna recounts a misadventure that led to the killings of young children. Even the complete picture of what really transpired during the conversation between Maan Singh and an informer, that takes place before they go about looting a big fat Indian wedding, is disclosed much later.
Manoj Bajpayee’s brief appearance for the Maan Singh character overshadowed the presence of every other actor whenever he came on to the screen. His terrific acting brought out the benevolent expression while giving away money to an informer. He looks dangerous when he calmly asks for the cash to a trembling guy in a wedding. It was only when his part was over that the other characters finally seemed to exist. Lakhna, played by Sushant Singh Rajput, bloomed soon after Manoj’s brief stint and was well supported by dacoit Vakil Singh played by Ranvir Shorey. Lakhna, as Indumati states in a scene, is an understanding and kind-hearted dacoit. Vakil is very particular about one’s caste (He shows his aggression when the young girl, accompanied by Indumati, is found to be of a different caste who are termed by them as ‘untouchables’). Vakil, also, has no regard for women and considers them inferior (He scolds a guy, in a scene, saying, “Tu mard ni, aurat hai” (You aren’t a man but a woman)). Bhumi Pednekar’s extraordinary act exemplified the sentiments attached to the character of Indumati (One could feel the harrowing experience she must have gone through as she pleads Lakhna not to reveal that she was, too, subjected to the sexual abuse during her childhood). Even Ashutosh Rana looked threatening as he plays the role of a security officer (When he is hiding on a terrace, he slowly gets up and keeps a stern face, gestures with a finger on his lips to a boy standing on the opposite terrace in a bid to tell him not to shout, and shoots at the dacoits).
I felt that the movie lost the grip in the second-half. But the intensity remained intact because of its brilliant writing and the marvellous way with which it brings out the core issues revolving caste and girl child rape incidents. Not to forget the fantastic background score that further intensified the impact of the movie.
With the security forces chasing away the dacoits and some members of security forces planning to take down their own leading officer, the movie rightfully ends on a note referring to the natural occurrence of life in which snakes eat rats and vultures eat snakes. Sonchiriya is an intense dacoit-based story that throws light on sexual abuse and caste-related violence backed by a superbly written screenplay.