• Release Date: 1/3/2019
  • Cast: Sushant Singh Rajput, Ranvir Shorey, Bhumi Pednekar, Ashutosh Rana, Manoj Bajpayee
  • Director: Abhishek Chaubey

Maan Singh (Manoj Bajpayee) leads a gang of bandits who are all in their own ways weighed down by their deeds. Lakhna (Sushant Singh Rajput) is contemplating surrender as he is constantly haunted by the visions of a minor that he might have killed. Vakil Singh (Ranvir Shorey) is the organic hothead who is not necessarily a bad guy but doesn’t think twice before putting a gun to head at the slightest provocation and sometimes no provocation at all. Maan Singh gets a tip of a marriage where a large cache of gold is slated to be exchanged as dowry. He arrives at the spot with his gang only to learn that he has actually been lured into a trap by the hot-on-their-heels police officer Gujjar (Ashutosh Rana). The gang is annihilated and whatever remains of it re-assembles under the leadership of Vakil Singh and tries to make a move to safety. It is at this juncture that a woman by the name of Indumati Tomar (Bhoomi Pednekar) begs for their help to take a brutally molested kid to a hospital.

There is a lot to love about this film. Even though the story is a slow burn it moves from one point to another organically and never stalls. The four most important characters of the film, Lakhna, Vakil, Indumati and Gujjar are intriguing and have a vice-like grip on our senses. The first half hour or so of the film is spent in the initial setup of the story that is done using the ambush by the police at the wedding as a backdrop. I just loved this part. The action felt in your face and realistic beyond compare. We have seen a lot of rendering of these kinds of sequences but what Abhishek Chaubey achieves here is unlike anything that we have seen in a long time. I was feeling as if I was smack in the middle of the action watching from an underwater shark cage as men were falling right, left and center.

Apart from the bandits running from the law and helping Indumati take the kid to the hospital, there is a lot happening. Vakil Singh, through the course of action, develops a marauding enmity with Lakhna who now has to contend with both the police and his own gang member who are vying for his blood. Gujjar is not out to just do his duty and clean up the ravines but has a very personal agenda against the brigands. Indumati is hell-bent on saving the life of the kid not just because she herself saved her from her oppressors but because there is a fallback to her past that she is able to associate with the kid’s ppredicament. She is also hiding a lot from the bandits that are revealed layer by layer. Maan Singh was also holding back vital information from his gang when he walked into the trap set by the police that affects the men of his gang in strange ways. There is also the story of a weapon’s smuggler that turns out to be more important than what could be expected.

All this and a lot more add up to make the proceedings of the film brisk, engaging and affecting. There are no punches spared. Some terribly macabre truths are revealed that is bound to shake the viewer in the most uncomfortable of ways possible. This is in so many ways a defining factor of the film. There is a scene where Lakhna and Indumati are taking the kid across a river. The girl puts her hand in the water of the river and lets it flow as Indumati sings her a lullaby. It is at this juncture that a crocodile approaches the boat and nearly devours the girl. This scene is so well done and aesthetically realized that even after it was over, I was in its awe. The film is peppered with many such memorable sequences.

Ranvir Shorey soars high as Vakil Singh. I totally fail to understand why he is not used in more diverse roles by Bollywood. Why isn’t he a leading man in bigger pictures? Here is an actor who is not only at his prime but with every passing year is gaining more and more momentum in his dynamic range. Why not then use him in more complex and stellar roles? Sushant Singh Rajput is a good actor and he keeps proving his worth again and again. Here too he effortlessly disappears behind his character. He is not only efficient in the dramatic sequences and wonderfully subtle but adds a sensational physicality to the action sequences. He also shares searing chemistry with Bhoomi Pednekar’s character that is hard to miss.

Ashutosh Rana is towering in his essay of Gujjar. He has been getting some good roles of late but his part here will easily outshine anything that he has done in the last few years. He is introduced as a ruthless and maniacal oppressor who is a worthy match for the brigands. However, as the story progresses we understand his unflinching drive to nail one and all associated with the Maan Singh gang. Rana literally explodes off the screen every time he gets the chance. Bhumi Pednekar is fast becoming one of the most exciting heroines to look forward to and her act here will only go down to cement her place in that pedestal. She effortlessly steers her character through a gamut of situations and dramatic arcs to deliver a thoroughly authoritative performance that is as much in keeping with the character as it is with her superlative acting prowess. Manoj Bajpayee is barely there but he does enough to grip you with his act.

Sonchiriya is a well made, compelling and sensationally acted film. The performance makes up for 80% of the film’s pluses with the rest equally shared between effective direction and sweeping cinematography (Anuj Rakesh Dhawan) that makes the film a visual treat. It is not for the faint of heart as it deals with some really stomach churning stuff and has enough violence and gore to satisfy the ones who feed on exploitation movies. But at heart, it is a tale about conflict, social position and the inability of men to understand what the right thing to do is. I was engaged in the narrative and was overwhelmed by the sheer amount of talent on display. If you are willing to take some old ultra-violence in your stride, Sonchiriya could be a thoroughly rewarding and enjoyable fair for you.

Rating: 3.5/5 (3.5 out of 5 Stars)  

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