A policewoman with anger management issues; a complicated and confusing romantic relationship; and tension between said policewoman and her superiors. If you’re into slow-moving films with all the elements of a good police thriller — except that all the plot elements are underdeveloped and poorly managed — then Soni is for you.
The following review will be spoiler free.
Directed By: Ivan Ayr
Written By: Ivan Ayr and Kislay Kislay
Starring: Geetika Vidya Ohlyan, Saloni Batra, Vikas Shukla, and Mohit Chauhan
It’s difficult to summarize a movie with an almost nonexistent plot. Soni (Geetika Vidya Ohlyan) struggles to maintain her job as a police officer in Delhi. Her anger management issues often lead to her physically assaulting the lawbreaking individuals that she encounters. In turn, this gets her in trouble with her superiors in police management. Soni’s direct superior Kalpana (Saloni Batra) pities her and tries to help her maintain her field job.
When Soni relocates to a tech support department against her will, Kalpana unofficially mentors her in an effort to get her back in the field. During their unofficial training, they encounter drug deals and corruption within the police force on multiple levels. Meanwhile, Soni’s life gets further complicated by a visit from her former lover Naveen (Vikas Shukla). The two share several agonizingly vague conversations that allude to their unclear past together. Finally, by the end of the movie, the audience has a fair understanding of what transpired between them. Even so, there are still too many unanswered questions in their relationship.
Ivan Ayr felt inspired to write Soni after reading multiple articles in Indian news about crime in Delhi, where Ayr grew up. Ayr immediately felt drawn to investigate further, as the Delhi police system intrigued him. Women are prevalent in the Delhi police force, and they often respond to sex-based crimes with greater understanding and sympathy than their male counterparts. Ayr wanted to explore this theme in the film, though unfortunately he strayed far from his mark.
I should disclose that I am a twenty-year-old white American male, so am possibly in one of the furthest removed demographics from the characters of Soni and Kalpana. It is likely that some of the context of the movie was lost on me. As it was almost entirely in Hindi, I did rely on subtitles to follow the plot. However, even though I know I’m not the target audience, I can’t help but observe that Ayr fails to address the themes that he hoped to discuss with this film.
The film’s cinematography is creative and subtle, and almost works well. Each scene is shot in one lengthy take. This gives the audience a sense of immersion in the film as we only see as much as a real person in the story might. However, this approach ended up as a double-edged sword. There’s no doubt that the decision to film each scene in one shot was a creative approach. Unfortunately, this often resulted in substantial portions of a scene with no dialogue and virtually no action.
The Mystery of the Kitchen
Frequently, Soni would stand in her kitchen doing essentially nothing. Occasionally she would wipe a clean pan to make it cleaner, or she would insert or remove food from her pantry. Other times she stood there and neither said nor did anything. These meaningless and boring sequences are a direct result of the unique approach to shooting each scene. I didn’t think to count the number of meaningless kitchen scenes. Even so, I guarantee you at least three minutes of the film were wasted in half a dozen or more useless scenes.
Additionally, I noticed that Soni never ate dinner. Not a single time. There were plenty of scenes involving food — Kalpana even takes Soni to dinner at one point — yet Soni never eats. The one exception is when she had a brief snack lunch while conversing with Naveen. But when it came to dinner, Soni avoided eating at all costs. Even when her own supervisor bought her a meal, Soni wouldn’t eat. Even when Soni began to cook herself a meal, she still never ate it! I don’t have any idea if this was intentional writing or not, but it was more memorable than any other theme throughout the film.
Themes (Almost) Addressed
Aside from the potential hints at an eating disorder from the strange kitchen scenes, Soni flirts with the notion of several potent themes. Sadly, each interesting theme vanishes moments after it is brought to light.
Kalpana and Soni almost embody the struggle for gender equality in the workforce. However, Soni’s anger management issues actually interfere with her qualifications. As a result, any conversation about the film’s attempted central theme shifts from empowering women to whether mentally troubled individuals should be put in positions of civic authority. It’s an unfortunate statement of fact that Soni’s angry personality ruins the potential for discourse on women in the workforce and leaves the audience with very different questions.
Naveen and Soni also hint at a controversial decision that they made years ago. Meanwhile, Kalpana’s grade-school niece mentions that she wanted to “shoot all [her classmates]” after they played a cruel joke on her. Both of these sub-plots would have been very interesting if enough time had been dedicated to them. However, each of them play out in such disinterested haste that the audience struggles to relate to any of the sub-plots at all.
Overall, Soni is a lackluster, slow-paced film. It had remarkable potential in what it attempted, but it failed to achieve even its most obvious goal. A film that strove to discuss gender inequality within the Delhi police force sounds like an interesting premise in theory. In practice, however, Soni falls short of adequately discussing this central theme, as it fails to discuss any of its sub-plots in a satisfying manner. While Soni may appeal to Indian viewers, I enjoyed very few scenes throughout the movie. This film could have been excellent, but instead wasted 97 minutes of my life.
Thank you for reading! What are your thoughts on Soni? Comment down below!
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I saw this yesterday. I am Indian and have infact lived in the same city. You are right though, a lot of this movie might be lost on non Indian viewers Since most arent even aware of what inspired this movie or what life is like for middle class Indian working women. I absolutely loved this movie. Given how flashy and shallow Indian cinema usually is, this movie is grounded in reality and very very well made. It does not explicitly discuss its issues, which mirrors the reality of such situations really well. This movie discusses its issues in hushed tones much like society in Delhi at the moment. I only hope more Indians can watch this and other movies like this and more Indian content online , which will hopefully inspire Indian movie makers to make good, big budget mainstream movies.
Please check out Andhadhun. Its also available on netflix. Its a fast paced action movie inspired from a french short film about a blind pianist. If you did not like this one, you might quite enjoy that one.
Great review still. You did it justice from your perspective.
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