Almost 25 years ago, Shekhar Kapur transported us to the dusty bylanes of Chambal in ‘Bandit Queen’ an outstanding biopic on a dacoit named Phoolan Devi. This week releases ‘Sonchiriya’ with a similar ambition with the director of ‘Udta Punjab’ at the helm of it. I was really excited to watch this movie. Did it live up to my expectations or did the ‘dust’ settle on it…lets find out.
Set in the dusty ravines of Chambal, Sonchiriya is a cat and mouse story between the dacoits and the cops with an endearing twist. The story, although not as good as Bandit Queen, is quite good. The screenplay( interspersed with dark humour) is good even though the narrative could have been a little more layered. Also, the pace does slacken in the second hour before falling back on track in a rivetting climax. The shootout scenes are outstanding. Won’t be mentioning dialogues as the theatre played a ‘dubbed’ version of the movie instead of the original Bundelkhandi dialect(with subtitles) which lead to an instant disconnect(no fault of the film makers). The music gels well with the narrative. The cinematography is outstanding and one of the strong points. Abhishek Chaubey is yet again in full flow after the outstanding Udta Punjab though Udta Punjab was a better product on a whole.
The performances are also another strong point. Manoj Bajpayee who also started his acting career with Bandit Queen returns to his roots and is impressive in his cameo. Ashutosh Rana emotes through his wide eyes and still sends chills down your spine like in Sangharsh, his debut film. Bhumi Pednekar, the only female in an otherwise male universe, holds her own and is ourstanding to say the least. Sushant Singh Rajput is yet again sincere and pulls off his role effortlessly. But my pick of the lot os an acting who is highly under utilized by Bollywood- Ranvir Shorey. He just nails his character and how!
Sonchiriya, despite its creative flaws, is niche, gritty and hard hitting. If you have a stomach for some realism then this movie is for you. Watch it in a theatre near you before the dust settles in!!