Love Sonia: Debutant Mrunal Thakur shines in this hard-hitting story on the flesh trade

Love Sonia Photograph:( DNA )

WION Web Team New Delhi, Delhi, India Sep 12, 2018, 08.51 AM (IST) Shomini Sen

Poverty and hunger can make one do dangerous things. In filmmaker Tabrez Noorani’s hard-hitting, gut-wrenchingly real film ‘Love Sonia’, a poor farmer (Adil Hussain) has to sell his elder daughter Preeti (Riya Sisodia) off to the local landlord (Anupam Kher) as he owes him money. And as Preeti’s parents resign to fate with guilt, it is her sister Sonia (debutant Mrunal Thakur) who refuses to live without her.

Set in the murky by lanes of Mumbai- which is a striking contrast to the glitzy, glamorous city that we are used to watching on the big screen ‘Love Sonia’ shows the audience the grim reality of prostitution and human trafficking right from the beginning. Sonia is brought to Mumbai by Anjali (Sai Tamhanker)- an agent- who sells her off to a pimp Faisal (Manoj Bajpayee) a man who runs a busy brothel in the city. The handlers are the same people who have earlier taken Preeti in their brothel and Sonia, in a bid to find her missing sister caves into whatever Faisal and Madhuri (Richa Chadha), the madam of the brothel, ask her to do.

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Out of her cocooned environment for the first time in her life, Sonia encounters all kinds of people at the brothel – who may have different stories but have had the same fate as her ultimately. There is Madhuri, who after being raped at a young age, is pushed to flesh trade and used by Faisal to train new recruits. There is Rashmi (Frieda Pinto) whose husband has thrown her out – which has eventually made her numb to emotions and tad bit loony and then there is Mukesh (Rajkummar Rao) who comes to the brothel regularly as a client but is actually an NGO worker trying to rescue underage girls from prostitution.

To its credit, the film boasts of an envious star cast. Some of the most prominent names from the business of cinema feature in the film but in supporting roles. Each of the actors mould themselves well into the characters, making the film appear very real. Be it Frieda Pinto as the loony Rashmi, to Richa Chadha as the lonely Madhuri to Adil Hussain as the helpless father to even Bajpayee as the heartless pimp- all the performances are memorable.

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The film, though, is centered around Sonia played by actress Mrunal Thakur. A known face on TV and advertisements, Mrunal transforms into the innocent yet brave Sonia perfectly. There is a certain amount of vulnerability that Mrunal brings to Sonia which makes her look naive at first but you end up rooting for her as she fights all odds and never loses hope. For a newcomer, Mrunal delivers a refreshingly nuanced performance which is praiseworthy.

Tabrez Noorani has been a line producer for many Hollywood films that have been shot in India in the past.  In his debut film as a director, Noorani gets stalwarts like Resul Pookutty for sound and AR Rahman for music who ably support the narrative but never overpower it.

The film’s story, despite being a tad predictable, is the actual winner. The screenplay by Ted Caplan and Alkesh Vaja pays attention to little details but never shifts focus from the main plot. My only complain is that the film could have fleshed out the ending a bit more. What they show on screen seems very hurriedly put together.

‘Love Sonia’ is disturbing. It is a film that would make you uncomfortable and squirm at times in disgust yet it makes for a compelling watch. Despite its predictability, in the end, the film sends out a very hard-hitting message on poverty in our country and the length one can go to find their loved on.

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