Review: Soni

Saloni Batra and Geetika Vidya Ohlyan in Soni

Soni, a drama from India about two women police officers, demonstrates the difficulties the country is having granting women equal rights. I take hope from the fact that the director Ivan Ayr is a man who obviously gets it.

Soni (Geetika Vidya Ohlyan) is a young officer in Dehli. She has anger issues where men are concerned. She’s been affronted and hurt by men too many times and she can’t take it any more. When a man follows her home at night and rushes at her, she beats him up. A couple of times she slaps a man who is being an ass toward her. It only results in getting her in trouble.

I liked Soni very much. She had a bit of a swagger. She was tough. She feels like the future of Indian womanhood in many ways. She’s not taking any more bullshit.

The amount of harassment and entitlement and bullying a female police office suffers is monumental in Indian society. These women are trailblazers, working to make the simplest things like riding a bus safe for women.

Saloni Batra and Geetika Vidya Ohlyan in Soni
The friendship between Soni and her superior officer Kalpana was the glue that held them both together in the face of endless patriarchal bullying.

Kalpana (Saloni Batra) is Soni’s superintendent. She’s married to Sandeep (Mohit Chauhan). He’s also a police officer, higher ranking than his wife. Kalpana enlists his support in her efforts to keep Soni from being terminated.

Soni gets sent to duty answering phones after a couple of the incidents. Kalpana sticks up for her and gets her back. The men involved in the incidents suffer no consequences, except in one case there are drugs involved. They make some charges stick to that man.

Soni was in a relationship with Naveen (Vikas Shukla). He did something unspecified that hurt her and made her suffer. It wasn’t spelled out, but I suspect he is the source of some of her seething anger. He keeps trying to get himself back in her life, but she won’t have him. She’d rather manage on her own, even when she can’t get gas canisters delivered for her stove.

In Kalpana’s case, she’s married but childless and her mother and family are after her constantly to have a child.

Saloni Batra and Geetika Vidya Ohlyan in Soni
I’ll berate you when you don’t follow protocol, but I’ll also support you.

The entire movie was shot with each scene being a single take, even very long scenes with considerable moving around. The camera work was smooth, never bumpy, as it followed from the beginning of a scene to the end without stopping. In some of the scenes there was an impressive amount of dialog to deliver before moving on to the next scene.

Doing the entire movie in single take scenes meant there were no close ups, no reaction shots. In the screen grabs I’ve included you can see that conversations were a bit removed so that both characters were in the shot at all times. I wouldn’t have minded a few closeups of the actors, but it was certainly interesting watching an entire film made in this way. A rather daring choice for director Ivan Ayr.

Soni is mostly in Hindi with a sprinkling of English. It’s streaming on Netflix.

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