Director-Writer Tabrez Noorani presents transparency exposing the horrors of flesh trade with Love Sonia, having worked with NGOs – the perseverance of authenticity makes it more powerful. Love Sonia is not an easy film, and the horrors are rather shown than implying subtly – for a mere cigarette, a pimp sells Sonia. Relentlessly disturbing film forces us to face the horrors we chose to often neglect and turn away from to save our sanity with a tight fist, initially a powerful claustrophobic experience. Since Tabrez Noorani has extensively worked as Line/Consulting Producer for projects like Slumdog Millionaire (2008), Life of Pi (2012) and Lion (2016) – though Love Sonia is based on true events, its soul seems constructed from the above mentioned.
Sonia (Mrunal Thakur) as she struggles to find out whereabouts of her sister Preeti (Riya Sisodiya), she gets trapped into the flesh trade – human trafficking which travels beyond the crumbled walls of Mumbai. It’s also a sprouting mixture of terrific stories from the brothel – a pimp, a cynical prostitute and a tough yet compassionate prostitute. In a significant introductory portion, Sonia flinches from a butterfly trapped in a jar. And Sonia soon becomes the trapped butterfly, the manifestation of fear steps into a stark realism. Tabrez Noorani’s directorial is a butterfly (which stands for hope and endurance) trap which looks through the affected and innocent eyes of Sonia as she walks through the dark alleys of Mumbai’s Red Light Area.
As a film, what works here is the transparency of presentation – whether it’s the objectification or ramification of captivity. Post-interval, it ventures into an non-identical yet comfortable writing zone – there’s an instant disconnect when it travels from Mumbai to Los Angeles via Hong Kong. With introduction of white saviours and an unconvincing twist, the film ends on a low note failing to leave an impact – yet the first-half is hard-hitting and only segment (not for squeamish) which leaves a terrific impact. Cinematographer Lucas Bielan captivates into the serpentine lanes of the brothel leaving no breathing space – literally travels into Sonia’s psyche.
Love Sonia prominently works on the honest intentions and a stellar cast – especially the solid Mrunal Thakur whose innocence makes us sympathise, Manoj Bajpayee as a pimp delivers an expected yet dreadful performance and Freida Pinto slowly reveals her grey shades through a graceful performance. Adil Hussain leaves a mark as a poverty-ridden farmer in handful scenes, his eyes speak volumes about his vulnerability and regret while Richa Chadha’s awkward dialogue delivery waters down her terrific performance. Rajkummar Rao ends up in an insignificant character role which could’ve done by any other actor.
Sonia’s hymen is a point of focus, and the dehumanisation sickens since it’s treated as just another business, Noorani’s jarring narrative counterfeit’s an impact of the essential former points. Love Sonia reminded of a compelling and moving Academy Award-winning documentary Born Into Brothels (2004). Tabrez Noorani’s directorial is an honest and a genuine attempt at exposing the horrors of human trafficking – but the butterfly that represents hope and endurance doesn’t flutter much.
Release: 14 September, 2018
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