Film: SONI, Streaming on Netflix
Cast: Saloni Batra, Vikas Shukla, Mohit Chauhan, Geetika Vidya Ohlyan
Director: Ivan Ayr
Deftly directed and superbly acted, Ivan Ayr’s Soni, which premiered in Venice last year and began streaming on Netflix on January 18, is an intense and profoundly affecting portrait of two Delhi policewomen navigating personal and professional challenges as they go about a campaign to rid the city of sexual predators.
Ayr, who also scripted the film, probes the complexities inherent in the lives of temperamental sub-inspector Soni (Geetika Vidya Ohlyan) and her immediate boss and rookie IPS officer Kalpana (Saloni Batra) without ever opting for the easy route of simplification. The camera focuses unwaveringly on the fraught spaces that the duo occupy, bringing out the constraints and conflicts they constantly face in order not to be cubby-holed into expected gender roles.
Soni,contending with a failed relationship, tends to lose her cool when confronted with law-breakers, which frequently lands her in trouble. The less excitable Kalpana, married to a senior IPS officer, is also compelled to do a tightrope walk between the persistent demand from her mom-in-law to start a family and her unwavering commitment to her job, made all the more onerous by Soni’s propensity for extreme measures in the line of duty.
The film does not bank on big-bang scenes or dizzying pace for effect. To the contrary, it lets the viewer enter the ‘cages’ that Soni and Kalpana are trapped in and are determined to break.We are allowed feel the palpable tension, hear their innermost thoughts and empathize with their cause. There is subtlety and precision in the craft that is on show in Soni.
The impact of Soni is enhanced by the tremendous performances by the two lead actresses. So real are they that they never seem to be anything but the two women they are playing on the screen.