SONCHIRIYA: ravines of redemption

Sonchiriya, the Great Indian Bustard was once common on the dry plains of Indian subcontinent, now extinct. Phuliya exclaims, “Women are altogether from different caste. Beneath all of them (caste)”, her words keep echoing in a ravines of Chambal. She’s the sole woman warrior in the reign while another warrior woman has announced “Emergency” – Director Abhishek Chaubey metaphorically uses the announcement in Sonchiriya. He inherits the extinct species into a small girl, who amidst the patriarchy is on the verge of being deceased (extinct). Chaubey’s flair for subtle subtext was evident in his previous ventures Dedh Ishqiya (2014) and Udta Punjab (2016), here, the flair betters more nuanced and better. It’s a good time at Indian Cinema with critically and commercially acclaimed Gully Boy (Hindi), Kumbalangi Nights (Malayalam), To Let (Tamil) and Anandi Gopal (Marathi) running in theatres – Sonchiriya is the latest addition.

Writers Abhishek Chaubey and Sudip Sharma (NH 10, Udta Punjab) weave a Western Spaghetti in the ravines of Chambal. Sonchiriya shimmers and gradually unfolds the layers consisting casteism, patriarchy, morality and even redemption – it’s a sickening as well as horrifying sociopolitical commentary. “The mouse is preyed by the snakes, the snakes preyed by the vultures. It’s the law of nature.”, the film adheres to the vicious cycle of nature, where humans who are so-called rebels and termed as dacoits are on the verge of catharsis. Ravines of Chambal are indicative of mental rising and overcoming obstacles, every character achieves a redemption within the deep narrow gorge. It’s a simple story weaved with an intricate metaphor which looks at the bigger picture in the narrow gorge – may even term it as, conventionally unconventional. But beyond just adjectives, Sonchiriya is a moving and disturbing piece of cinema which evokes respect for its craft as well as hits hard with questions pondering reality.
Cinematographer Anuj Rakesh Dhawan’s superlative camerawork gradually transforms into the arid-ness of Chambal. While the mood is raw, the rustic location evokes enchanting frames which suggests the “transformation of the outlaws” – draws similarity to Western Spaghettis, but Sonchiriya stands with pride on its own home ground. It’s an effective example of how colour affects the viewing and instantly transforms into the dry plains, the palette is worn out while the visual contingency paints the canvas with priceless speaking-frames. Benedict Taylor and Naren Chandavarkar’s minimalistic BGM stings the narrative in a meditative form, vicious like a venom which slowly affects. Music Director Vishal Bhardwaj and Lyricist Varun Grover’s soundtrack rolls seamless in the narrative, while Meghna Sen’s dept editing is remarkable. Although the film runs for a longer duration, the interesting conflict-over-conflict bounds in the ravine for a disturbing climax redemption. Abhishek Chaubey’s flair for musical climax is top-notch, the way musical notes hit against the bullets and the silence intervenes the fluid narrative.Casting Director Honey Trehan’s casting is on point, the weariness of rebels is starkly captured through the facial structure and lumping eyes of the character-artists. Sushant Singh Rajput is an absolute surprise as he perfectly captures the compassion and guilt, his command over the language is appreciable too. Bhumi Pednekar delivers a capable performance while Manoj Bajpayee steals the show by proving his mettle in a nuanced performance. Ashutosh Rana’s simmering and effective performance is the one which determines the narrative. Ranvir Shorey is among the best character-role, he deliver a phenomenal performance while understating the obstinacy of the “rebellious” life. Without a doubt, the ensemble cast has immersed perfectly and grasped the arid-ness in their performances.

Undoubtedly, Abhishek Chaubey’s Sonchiriya comes close to Shekar Kapur’s Bandit Queen (1994) and Tigmanshu Dhulia’s Paan Singh Tomar (2012) – but, it’s a new-age cinematic craving. Sonchiriya is an anguish against redemption within the ravines as it oscillates between life-and-death, a well-crafted cinematic tale inside a metaphor. Remember, Chambal is a flawed surface with flawed characters, look inside the heart!


Language: BUNDELKHANDI DIALECT (with English subtitles)
Release: 01 March, 2019
Rating: 4/5


Copyright ©2019 Ninad Kulkarni. This article may not be reproduced in its entirety without permission. A link to this URL, instead, would be appreciated.

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