By Deepa Gahlot
Human trafficking is not just an Indian phenomenon, but Tabrez Noorani’s Love Sonia, well-meaning though may be, is a film made for a Western audience; so there’s Mumbai in all its slummy infamy.
There is nothing new in the story of village girls being sold into prostitution—this film is very similar to Nagesh Kukunoor’s Lakshmi (2014). In Love Sonia too, an indebted farmer (Adil Hussain) sells older daughter Preeti (Riya Sisodiya) to the landowner (Anupam Kher), who passes her on to a procuress (Sai Tamhankar). The younger girl, Sonia (Mrunal Thakur) follows on her own, to hunt for her sister, and ends up in a squalid brothel, run by Babu (Manoj Bajpayee). Among the other women there are the older, cynical, cruel Madhuri (Richa Chadha) and Rashmi (Freida Pinto). Escape seems almost impossible, since the cops are on the take. And as Rashmi says, where would they go? Their families won’t have them back.
The film then follows Sonia’s story through her ordeal at the Mumbai brothel and later, when she is sent outside the country in a shipping container. The problem with a film like Love Sonia is that it cannot show the real brutality of the flesh trade, so resorts to clichéd scenes and lines, some of them bordering on comically grotesque (like Babu screaming about virgin village girls, or Sonia’s encounter with an American customer).
Rajkummar Rao turns up in a tiny cameo as a social worker who helps rescue and rehabilitate the girls. Demi Moore appears in a scene as head of the American women’s shelter for victims of violence. Noorani obviously has the resources and clout to get such an ensemble cast of well-known actors. But the film remains mostly superficial, the intended shocks being mild, and just a few scenes that are genuinely moving. Hardly any films about prostitution—after the titillating scenes of the girls’ trauma are done– seriously take a look at what happens after they are rescued; do they succeed in getting back into the very society that shuns them. Love Sonia stops short of that stage too.
About Love Sonia
Director: Tabrez Noorani
Cast: Mrunal Thakur, Richa Chadha, Freida Pinto, Manoj Bajpayee, and others
Posted on Sep 14, 2018
Deepa Gahlot is one of India’s seniormost and best known entertainment journalists. A National Awardwinning film critic, Deepa has watched more movies and theatre than most people in the country. An author of several books on film and theatre, she has had an extremely successful run as head of theatre and film at the National Centre for Performing Arts, Mumbai, during which she helped nurture several original productions. For Xyngr, Deepa Gahlot reviews theatre and cinema.