'Love Sonia' movie review: Hauntingly yours

Love Sonia

Hindi (A)

Director: Tabrez Noorani

Cast: Mrunal Thakur, Adil Hussain, Manoj Bajpayee, Richa Chadha, Freida Pinto

Rating: ***

At the onset, the parched earth looks sinister. Sonia and her sister toil in the barren soil that heaps debts on their father (Adil Hussain). He has no means to repay Anupam Kher who, in turn, suggests that he sell one of his daughters.

In the dry fields, the sisters thirst for escape. And Kher is their ticket to Mumbai, where the grass is the brightest shade of green. The girls’ idea of a good life germinates from the posters of Bollywood stars smiling coyly from the grimy walls of their mud house. Salman Khan happens to be the main dreamseller.

In Mumbai, reality strikes lightning fast. The horrors of human trafficking tumble out of creepy closets as soon as Sonia sets foot in Manoj Bajpayee’s den. Suddenly, the dry land back home looks lush and inviting.

Director Tabrez Noorani makes the frying-pan-into-fire jump effectively in your face. The buzz around a minor’s membrane is shudderingly graphic. Soon, the dark, dingy brothels suffocate one with nauseating games of flesh trade.  

Much of the terror is unleashed by Bajpayee, the brutal brothel owner who lives and breathes evil. A master player, he stocks virgins as baits for the best bidder. Bajpayee aces the act as a ruthless master who, at one point of time, offers Sonia to an old creep in exchange of just a cigarette.

Sonia lies helpless as various men mount her, but the search for her sister (trapped in another brothel) leads her to even bigger sacrifices.

Mrunal Thakur is the star here. She brings alive the naive, vulnerable Sonia with a fine performance.  

Freida Pinto spits out expletives by the dozen, but barely makes the cut as the spiteful sex worker. Richa Chadha is more convincing as the “madam”. In between the gasps for breath, Rajkummar Rao’s NGO worker offers some oxygen.

Love Sonia travels to Hong Kong and Los Angeles in the second half, only to trip midway. The Hollywood detour (with brief appearances by Demi Moore and Mark Duplass) seems to be just an acknowledgement of Noorani’s work in the West (Slumdog Millionaire, Life of Pi).

Still, if there’s something missing here (like the comma in the title), Mrunal fills the blank spots with that haunting fright in her eyes.

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'Love Sonia' movie review: Hauntingly yours

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