wogma rating: Watch but no rush (?)

quick review:

The story, the performances keep you engaged, yet the film drags making it predictable because there’s just too much time to think.

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Director: Abhishek Chaubey
Running time: 145 minutes
Genres: Action, Noir, Social
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Sonchiriya - Preview

I’m a little done with movies in political settings. I need a break from them. A long break. But it doesn’t look like that respite is likely to come any time soon. So, I guess the next best thing is movies being made on the issues by capable directors and writers. That Abhishek Chaubey’s last film was Udta Punjab is indeed something that makes me look forward to Sonchiriya despite the topic.

That and of course, the actors. Even the supporting cast could be enough to make one watch the film, Ranveer Shorey, Manoj Bajpai and even Ashutosh Rana. Here’s hoping that this combination will be able to sustain interest and override the noise of the violence.

Sonchiriya releases on 1 March 2019.

- meeta, a part of the audience

The all too familiar arid setting of the deserts in the heart of the country where rebels thrive is relentless. The violence is relentless. The despair and futility of the struggle are relentless. In fact, once the tone is set, the entire film is rather predictable too, and yet it stays largely engaging because of the performances and how things unfold.

While a character spells out the meaning of Sonchiriya for the audience, I kept thinking of the character as India herself.

The existential questions one of the rebels, Lakhna struggles with can be said to be the story’s core. He wants to be dutiful, but he knows not what his duty is. He wants to do the right thing, but it isn’t always possible. These dynamics lay out a foundation for many other interesting characters to dwell in-from ‘follow the leader’ simpleton rebels to police officers who are philosopher-poets. These characters create space for many a societal issue to be brought to fore like the strong-willed woman who still needs men to shield her from the atrocities of other men is, of course, comment on gender suppression. Then there are the junior police officers who are seething with anger at a senior police officer from another (so-called lower?) caste which makes for a sharp observation about the caste system itself.

There are other aspects of the story that are subtler and thus add to the intrigue in the film. But the film also has elements that are too in the face and drag on for too long slowing down the pace of the film while making it predictable. Also, the glaring missing hole is what the rebels are rebelling against and what has caused their disillusionment? It almost feels like the makers assumed that the audiences know the background at the risk of alienating the audience.

It is a good thing then that the issues taken up are engaging by themselves and are well supported by the performances, the cinematography, and the production design. In that sense, Sonchiriya is an immersive experience. Even if the lack of background is disorienting, you feel like you are in the dry heat, hungry and thirsty. The cast right from Sushant Singh Rajput and Bhumi Pednekar to the last supporting actor does its part without a single hair out of place. From the dialect to the despair, everything works towards keeping you in the Chambal valley.

Sure, the triggered flashbacks and the twists in the side-stories seem slightly forced. They are indeed inserted to explain a motivation or prove a point about society. In that sense, the writing might seem jerky, but then the performances and the milieu cover up these rough edges. Even if partially.

The one thing I am not able to shake off is the metaphor of Sonchiriya. While a character spells out the meaning of Sonchiriya for the audience, I kept thinking of the character as India herself. Mutilated and battered, but everyone wants the best for her. Even if it is the best by their definition and not necessarily what is good for her essence. Yes, I see the irony too.

- meeta, a part of the audience

31 reviewers(?) - 18 yays 12 so-so 1 nays

Warning: clicking on "full review" will take you to an external website that could contain spoilers.

Thumbs up, by Anna MM Vertticad, annavetticadgoes2themovies : ...Commercial Hindi filmdom is either indifferent to, ignorant about or afraid of caste as a subject, as we were reminded most recently by the shameful manner in which it remade the Marathi film Sairat as Dhadak. The industry is also largely a patriarchal space, usually telling stories of men or portraying women through a restricted male gaze. Abhishek Chaubey’s new film, on the other hand, is a commentary on how, while oppressive systems crush the marginalised, the cycles of violence unleashed by dominant communities end up sweeping away everyone including the oppressors and in particular the few who wish to surrender their inherited privilege. Sonchiriya is unafraid, it is aware and it cares.... full review

Thumbs up, by Bobby Sing, Bobby Talks : ...Anyhow in the present scenario SONCHIRIYA will certainly find more appreciation & audience at the online portals instead of the theaters to be honest. But if you are personally interested in the technical aspects of filmmaking then do watch it on the big screen before it gets off next week.... full review

Thumbs up, by Subhash K Jha, Bolly Spice : ...And cinematographer Anuj Rakesh Dhawan whose lenses render bleakness into myriad shades of life lived on the edge. Raw, gritty and compelling, Sonchiriya conveys a clandestine narrative style that never impinges on the violent disarray of the characters’ brutal unpredictable lives.... full review

Thumbs up, Bollywood Hungama : ...On the whole, SONCHIRIYA is a well-made and a well shot movie with a strong narrative and brilliant performances as its USP. At the box office, its prospects will be restricted as it caters to a different set of a multiplex going audience.... full review

Thumbs up, by SUPARNA SHARMA, Deccan Chronicle : ...And though Sushant Singh Rajput is surrounded by formidable actors —Manoj Bajpayee, Ranvir Shorey, Bhumika Pednekar, Ashutosh Rana and other supporting cast are all excellent — he is able to hold scenes on his own. Though his blankness peeps out of his eyes at times, the more down and dirty he gets, the better he is. It was a pleasant surprise watching him.... full review

Thumbs up, by Mayur Sanap, Deccan Chronicle : ...Sonchiriya is significant, necessary piece of work, one that stays with you long after you rise out of your theatre seat. Although to be warned, watching Sonchiriya is never easy, but again so was the context. It is definitely not for the faint-hearted.... full review

Thumbs up, by Devesh Sharma, Filmfare : ...All-in-all, Sonchiriya offers a potent blend of dacoit drama, karmic lesson and caste politics with some realistic action thrown in for good measure. The performances alone are worth the price of the ticket.... full review

Thumbs up, by Devansh Sharma, FirstPost : ...The title of the film, Sonchiriya (the Golden bird), is itself a metaphor. It symbolieses the prized yet evasive treasure that the dacoits are on the lookout for, to pay the debt to their dharma. With this relevant, engaging film, Chaubey seems to have paid his debt. After Udta Punjab, he proves with even greater conviction why he is no rebel without a reason.... full review

Thumbs up, by Vishal Verma, : ...SONCHIRIYA is a powerfully performed, masterly etched gritty fusion of struggle, pain & redemption that gallops skillfully on its merits and provides a rivetingly haunting movie experience for the audience who look for sensibility and meaning in cinema.... full review

Thumbs up, by Umesh Punwani, koimoi : ...All said and done, Sonchiriya takes, what Bandit Queen started, a level above. It maintains the ‘everyone crosses everyone’ metaphor very smoothly. I lost the count of how many times I screamed ‘WOW’ in awe of the powerful drama happening on screen.... full review

Thumbs up, by Kunal Guha, Mumbai Mirror : ...Caste and class play a definitive part in this chase. But it's essentially a story of redemption that draws from the ideology that every man must face his demons before the inevitable end.... full review

Thumbs up, by Saibal Chatterjee, NDTV : ...As the cadences of the language and the flashes of black humour grow on us and the sound design hems us in - the silences that intersperse the gunfire and the musical score can be 'heard', and not just felt and experienced. The fluid camerawork and lighting capture both a sense of restlessness and and an air of foreboding as much in the dank, dark closed spaces as in the sunny exterior sequences. The balladic songs (music: Vishal Bhardwaj, lyrics: Varun Grover, voices: Rekha Bhardwaj, Sukhwinder Singh, Arijit Singh) extend solid support to a fabulous fable of a flawed land that eschews easy options and sticks to its guns all the way through.... full review

Thumbs up, by Rohit Vats, : ...Despite violence, of all kinds, being at the helm, Sonchiriya successfully manages to be a film about the bigger picture and larger good, but that’s not my preferred take-away from it. I think, Chaubey has got a real firm grip on the Westerns and easily is the best exponent of this genre in Bollywood right now. At 143-minutes, a unidirectional Sonchiriya wouldn’t let you crave for a spicier set-up.... full review

Thumbs up, by Manisha Lakhe, Now : ...When the leader of a dreaded bandit gang dies, the gang splits. With three of the men choosing to save a woman and a girl, it's a fascinating story of cops, bandits and the woman's family chasing the deserters. Or are they saviors? The story is told brilliantly and keeps you glued to your seat... full review

Thumbs up, by Sukanya Verma, Rediff : ...Chaubey and Sharma recreate a bygone era's lore and legends, groom it like a Western, pace it like a thriller, infuse it with surprises and social relevance around lyrical visuals and impactful writing, even its booming dishkyaons hit harder than all the empty pooh-pahing we hear around us all the time.... full review

Thumbs up, by Namrata Joshi, The Hindu : ...Every actor in the multi-starrer gives his or her all to the character. A special word for Bhumi Pednekar who is emerging as Bollywood’s every woman. She can play and be one with a character from any part of the country. Ranvir Shorey finally gets a role he deserves, underlying the ruthlessness of his character with a rare pathos and poignancy.... full review

Thumbs up, by Gaurang Chauhan, Times Now : ...On the downside, the movie drags a bit in the initial portion post interval. After a great first act and the pace dips in the second act but is lifted again in the final act.... full review

Thumbs up, by Renuka Vyavahare, Times of India : ...Gripping, tense and unpredictable, despite being a slow-burn western, Chaubey’s period thriller makes for a riveting watch. It manages to engage, suspect, shock and transport you to a world where people yearn for salvation over survival.... full review

So-So, by Urmimala Banerjee, Bollywood Life : ...Despite the flaws, Sonchiriya is complete cinema. Some powerful performances and social commentary are the biggest takeaways from the film. It does not entertain per se but presents an honest picture of an India many millennials might be unaware of...... full review

So-So, by Deepa Gahlot, cinemaah : ...For all its merits, this story of revenge and redemption has been done before, and without the addition of a folkloric element (that the best Hollywood Westerns manage), Sonchiriya looks dated; it is made somewhat watchable by the strength of its performances—Manoj Bajpayee is brilliant as usual, but the transformation of Rajput and Shorey, and the conviction with which they play their roles is remarkable.... full review

So-So, by Meena Iyer, DNA : ...It's unlikely that those in the cities will identify with this offering. But yes, if you're a curious cinema fiend, Sonchiriya will entice you.... full review

So-So, by Anupama Chopra, Film Companion : ...Sonchiriya tries to blend Spaghetti Western style-action drama with social commentary but it isn’t entirely satisfying on either count. You might also struggle with the language – Bundelkhandi – and it will help to see it with subtitles.... full review

So-So, by Madhuri V, Filmi Beat : ...There's a dialogue in the film which goes, "Sonchiriya jaake sab dhundh rahe hain, jo kaaho ke haath nahi aani ki." This Sushant Singh Rajput-Bhumi Pednekar starrer falls short of soaring high in the sky.... full review

So-So, by Johnson Thomas, Free Press Journal : ...The background score and soundtrack by Naren Chandavarkar, Benedict Taylor, Vishal Bharadwaj are evocative enough but unfortunately there’s no emotional connect to take this saga right into your heart. Sudip Sharma and Chaubey himself, fail to give the lead characters enough backstory to make their eventual salvation seeking remorse believable. And that’s really why this film looks fabulous but doesn’t feel as good!... full review

So-So, by Raja Sen, Hindustan Times : ...Sonchiriya claims to be about a band of outlaws in wild search of a golden bird — but that bird may just be a goose. The film skims topics of caste, gender, religion and politics, and proves to be a film about the desperation to belong to something larger than oneself, the all-consuming desire to believe in something. Even birds of prey need to pray.... full review

So-So, by R.M. Vijayakar, India West : ...Chaubey should focus on maximizing his movies’ appeal and minimizing the niche element! And the best way up is to stop being unduly impressed by foreign greats and study, instead, the work of our filmmaking legends.... full review

So-So, by Arti Dani, Khaleej Times : ...'Sonchiriya' is a different film, and it requires your complete attention. If you are a bit patient with these characters, you will enjoy their quest for inner peace and freedom.... full review

So-So, by Uday Bhatia, Live Mint : ...After a slew of films about duty – to kingdom, country, state, party, family – here’s one that’s ambivalent about the notion of a larger purpose. There’s a question that recurs through Sonchiriya: what is a dacoit’s dharma? At one point an answer is given: to protect one’s people and caste, to live and pass away in the ravines, to die from a bullet. A fatalistic response, and a bracingly nihilistic film.... full review

So-So, by Pankhurie Mulasi, Movie Talkies : ...However aam janta usually goes to watch a film to get their dose of entertainment and this dreary tale disappoints in that department. Watch this film only if you enjoy watching performance oriented movies... full review

So-So, by SHILPA JAMKHANDIKAR, Reuters : ...The saving grace is that Chaubey's cast is formidable, and Rajput and Shorey are top-notch. Pednekar tries to keep up, but she just isn't as good as the two of them. Manoj Bajpayee is at ease in his role as the bandit leader, as is Ashutosh Rana, who plays the police officer chasing the outlaws.... full review

Thumbs down, by Shubhra Gupta, indian express : ...A thread, involving a local woman (Pednekar) and a little girl, both on the run, is a crucial part of the film: these characters being treated as property and brutalized at will, with an honourable ‘daaku’ stepping in to speak for them, leads to a line which still feels like a slap on the face: ‘aurat ki jaat alag hot hai’. Or words to that effect. Yes, there will always be conflict between Thakurs and the lower-castes, but women, they are their own caste.... full review

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This page has additional observations, other than the ones noted in the main review.

Parental Guidance:

  • Violence: Loads and loads of gunfights. And some bits gory too.
  • Language: A few Hindi swear words used
  • Nudity & Sexual content: None. But frequent mention of rape.
  • Concept: The life and despair of rebels in heartland India
  • General Look and Feel: Dusty, dry deserts

Detailed Ratings (out of 5):

Lead Actors:
Character Artists:
Music Director:

Sonchiriya - Cast, crew, links

Music Director:
Costume Designer:
Running time:
145 minutes

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