Sonchiriya Review & Rating
Sonchiriya Review: A Masterful Western With More Than What We Expect
After a long time, we get to see a gritty western style of film in Hindi and we should be excited. Of course, we are. After all, it is Abhishek Chaubey who last delivered Udta Punjab. But calling this film a western with bandits and gunfights is not even scratching the surface. As all phenomenal films are, Sonchiriya is not just about what is shown on the screen but also what it makes us feel while watching it.
A lot of soul searching. Both for the characters in the world of the film and for us. The audience. With a stellar cast lead by Manoj Bajpayee and Ashutosh Rana, Sonchiriya is as much character-driven drama as it’s an adventure. And remember the classic dark Western The Wild Bunch by Sam Peckinpah! And then there is Vishal Bharadwaj connection. Without further ado, let’s dive in to the old world Chambal and marvel at a gorgeously rugged creation of Chaubey.
Maan Singh and his gang
Maan Singh is a dreaded dacoit but with morals. After all, he is one of the film’s protagonists. He leads a gang which also comprises of the coldly ruthless Vakil Singh and the sensible Lakhna. They roam around in the rugged terrains if Chambal and are not unlike the Wild Bunch, our of their prime time. Not in age though. But the count down for the heads of these dacoits started though. In the form of Dagora Virender Singh Gujjar. He is hell bent upon wiping the gang out of existence at any cost.
The time was emergency in India. And the period setting of 1970s is an obvious reference to the time when India’s Western movies were starting to come out. In addition their outside trouble in the form of Virender Singh and the inner turmoil of their internal conflict about their lifestyle and ideology, they get into even more trouble when they have to have hiding to the fiery but innocent Indumati Tomar.
The tussle between the conscious and subconscious worlds
Like all great films should, it is about the tussle between the conscious and subconscious world that the action on the screen represents. Our bandits want to mend their ways but the world around them don’t let them to. Then there is the masterstroke from the director in the form of man-mind-heart analogy.
The man is Manoj Bajpayee’s Maan Singh. The mind is Ranveer Shorey’s aptly named Vakil Singh. And the heart is Sushant Singh Rajput’s Lakhna. He is the only guy among our protagonists without a suffix to his first name. He is simply Lakhna.
And Indumati’s character is the threshold point of the man’s life. It’ll make or break him. Such was the power with which Abhishek Chaubey constructed his story. The world of Sonchiriya is a completely realised wonder right to the minutest of the details. It’s not an action adventure or a dark western. It is a spiritual journey at it’s heart. The narration relentless. There is no prologue or slow world building.
Writing and direction
Right from the word go like in Sam Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch, the movie has action. The opening shootout is heart-poundingly relentless and creates the mood for what’s going to come out further down the line. The visuals are gritty and the violence is gruesome. But amidst all this is the innocent girl who tags along with Indumati. Bhumi Pednekar and the girl who played the little girl beside her are effective in creating a longing feel. This is how the characters are written.
Ashutosh Rana is the representation of destiny and natural law. Those who try to change the nature’s order will perish in revenge inflicted by nature itself. Those who live in violence get annihilated in violence. It is destiny. The rest of the characters did supremely well. Or the director brought out such performances from even the characters with smaller screen time. Sonchiriya is a movie rich both in visuals and characters.
Cast and creed, patriarchy, hypocrisy, backstabbing, and what not! Every form of evil is touched upon either on the surface or in detail without bogging the narrative flow down. Sonchiriya is the journey of self-realisation after all. The dialogues are expertly conjured up. The usage of Bundeli dialect may not be legible for everyone initially. But trust me. The visuals themselves will speak a lot. No need to get hold of every dialogue. But we have subtitles to the rescue too.
Vishal Bhardwaj's mastery
Volumes can be written about the music conjured up for this film by the masterful Vishal Bhardwaj. He captured the mood. He elevated the mood. He created the mood. The sounds he comes up with are as much part of the atmosphere as the rugged terrains of Chambal. He formed the soul to the heart of Abhishek Chaubey’s vision. It’s a jugalbandi which is sorely missing these days in many films these days.
The same can be said of Anuj Dhawan’s cinematography. The visuals take you back to a lost world. He captured the grandeur of the physical world as well as the claustrophobic subconscious world. The frames are rich in detail. The angles are effectively set. The camera moves like the vision of the director itself. Goes hand in hand with the music and narration.
The editing is good for the most part. The production team did a stellar job in creating the world. The locations ooze hauntingly rugged charm. The production values are first rate. The makers did a commendable job in backing the vision of the director Abhishek Chaubey.
Go and get immersed in the world created by Abhishek Chaubey. He will guide you through to the end without any hiccoughs. Just follow his lead. UNMISSABLE!
- The world of Sonchiriya
- Epic writing
- Great direction
- Top performances
- Vishal Bhardwaj's masterful musical score
- Epic cinematography
- Bit slow in the initial part of the second half
Pycker Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Tailpiece: Going to watch this film again tonight
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Visual poetry. Don't miss to watch it on the biggest possible screens
What is Sonchiriya About?
Sonchiriya is a revisionist Curry Western, a forgotten genre in Indian Cinema. By the way, what is a Curry Western? Just so you can remember: Western-style films made in India with elements of decoits rather than cowboys. The films have all the makings of Westerns like gun battles, traitors, groups of heroes/villains, a story set in rugged terrain. Only instead of cowboys and bounty hunters, we get dacoits and police. Like in Sholay.
The film has an ensemble cast of Sushant Singh Rajput, Manoj Bajpayee, Ranveer Shorey, Ashutosh Rana, and Bhumi Pednekar. The film is about a group of dacoits of Chambal during the time of Emergency in India and the efforts of a police officer Virender Singh Gujjar to get Chambal rid off these dacoits.
The scope of a Western and thrills of a dacoit film
As explained by the director himself, Sonchiriya is spread over four days in the Chambal ravines and deals with issues of gender, social discrimination because of caste and when justice becomes revenge. Our fictional bandits are at a crossroads about their meaning and purpose. They have a sense of ethics and morals, but they don’t know if they are right or wrong. These existential questions bother them.
The film is about finding the inner Sonchirya which is the representation of inner-self for all the lead characters involved. The film appears like a Western on the outset and talks about the various issues listed above and actually talks about the self-discovery. With a policeman hot on the heels of the dacoits of Chambal, it is the survival of the fittest with a bloody battle in the offing.
Top class ensemble cast
Sushant Singh Rajput plays the role of Lakhna, one of the three dacoits and the other two are Manoj Bajpayee and Ranveer Shorey. Ashutosh Rana plays the role of the policeman who is deployed to look after the gang.
The talented Bhumi Pednkar plays the role of a self-proclaimed Thakur girl Indumati Tomar. She is inadvertently caught between the crossfire between the dacoits and the cops. With the film boasting of such a huge cast, Sonchiriya is going to set the screens on fire.
Abhishek Chaubey and his team
Abhishek Chaubey is a thinking filmmaker. And he has a wry sense of humor as evidenced by his previous directorial Ishqiya and Dedh Ishqiya. His recent film Udta Punjab is about the onslaught of drugs on the young people in Punjab but in general in India. Now, he has come up with a relatively entertaining film but with a purpose underneath.
He roped in none other than the top filmmaker and music director Vishal Bhardwaj to compose the musical score for this film. The result is already evident in the promos and the film has some of the best scores in recent times with a rarely heard nowadays sounds. Anuj Rakesh Dhawan's cinematography is every bit true to the genre and the camera angles in the promos are terrific. The production scale is ambitious as expected from a maker like Ronnie Screwvala.
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