Imagining the worst

Why you must force yourself to watch Love Sonia, the way some of its actors forced themselves to play despicable characters

easwaran

SB Easwaran | September 19, 2018


#Anti Trafficking Bill   #Tabrez Noorani   #Sai Tamhankar   #Manoj Bajpayee   #Love Sonia   #Sex Trafficking  


Love Sonia is not a film you would want to watch if you knew its subject: sex trafficking. Without even a scene experienced, the subject induces visceral revulsion. However optimistic the screenplay, it can only deal in ugly dregs and bring up retching bile. Even so, Love Sonia, gritty and traumatising, is a movie you must force yourself to watch. Much in the way some of its actors have forced themselves to play despicable characters.

The chameleonic Manoj Bajpayee, who plays Faisal, a brothel owner and trafficker, says he went through hell to bring authenticity to the character. So harrowing was the process of preparing for the role that he felt like dropping out. It's not as if the role is lengthy – just a scattering of brief scenes, in which he mostly talks rather than does something. Even in the scenes in which Faisal gets vicious, filmmaker Tabrez Noorani shows restraint. Throughout the film, it's what is not shown (and left to viewers to imagine) that scares and nauseates. Sai Tamhankar, another fine actor who plays Anjali, a procurer, told herself that the more reptilian she made herself the more effective she would be in projecting the enormity of sex trafficking. Like Bajpayee, she has a small role. But as Anjali she remains strongly foregrounded in what you remember of the film because of the verisimilitude of her patently false sweet-talk, her promises of good jobs in the big city, her slippery wiles in abandoning her prey once a deal is through.

Preparing for such roles would involve intense immersion: perhaps interviews with lowlifes, observation of life's grimy underbelly, listening to helpless victims and their heart-wrenching experiences. More demanding, and disturbing, would be the process of internalising the character mentally and psychologically so that external expression through dialogue and action rings true. Bajpayee and Tamhankar's success in bringing credibility to their roles bespeaks the searing they have subjected their souls to.

It's an amoral world Love Sonia depicts: cruelty, physical and sexual violence, and every kind of abuse imaginable are so casually normal that you begin to believe that no amount of goodness will be able to counterbalance its malevolence. The film explores the whole cycle of trafficking, right from a small village where a distressed farmer sells one of his daughters, Preety, sending her off to Mumbai for work. Her sister, the Sonia of the title, goes to Mumbai hoping to rescue and bring her back. Like Preety, she too is sold to a brothel. She is lucky to be ultimately rescued, but her sister, after being rescued, is dragged back to prostitution by her addiction. The film ends with Sonia nursing the bleak hope that one day Preety will return.

Noorani has researched sex trafficking for years. In 2003, he learnt of an Indian girl found with other trafficking victims inside a shipping container that had landed in Los Angeles. The victims had been transported from China. In Love Sonia, too, women are shown being trafficked in shipping containers, for sea journeys of 10-15 days or more to foreign lands. They're given canisters of water, packets of food, a couple of buckets to relieve themselves in. Some are kept drugged. One of the goons who locks them inside tells them there's no use shouting because their container will be stacked among thousands of others and no one will hear them.

Like Bajpayee and Tamhankar plunging themselves into the crucibles of their roles, we, as viewers, must use our imagination to see ourselves in the dank, sordid, and lightless container that is the world of sex trafficking, where futile cries echo back mockingly. We must do that because as a society we have failed miserably to break the horrendous cycle of poverty and exploitation of which young girls and women are the worst victims. Experiencing, even vicariously, the trauma of the victims of sex trafficking will sensitise us to their plight. For most of us, even that act of imagination will be difficult to achieve. But in the dark of the cinema hall or the living room, with Love Sonia playing on a screen, it may just become possible. Only, you may not be able to speak for some time after the film ends – the way Demi Moore, who plays a small role in it, was unable to after she attended its screening.

Comments

 

Other News

Aero India 2019 kicks off in Bengaluru

Five day long Aero India -2019 organised by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) was inaugurated at Air Force Station, Yelahanka, Bengaluru on Wednesday.   The French origin Rafale fighter jets are also participating in the event.   Asia’ largest

BHEL builds India’s first regenerative 5,000 HP electric locomotive

In a major technological breakthrough, BHEL has developed the country’s first such regenerative 5,000 horse power (HP) WAG-7 electric locomotive with a modern regeneration system for Indian Railways.   The electric loco was flagged-off by member traction, railway board, Gha

Prime Minister dedicates Rs 33,000 crore projects in Begusarai

Prime Minister Narendra Modi dedicated a host of developmental projects at Ulao airport in Begusarai, Bihar. Modi said these projects will fuel the progress of Bihar and the eastern states. He said that Bihar had the potential to play a pivotal role in driving the growth of the country. “The

IOCL finalises term contract for import of US crude oil grades

IndianOil Corporation has finalised a term contract for import of up to three MMT (million metric tonnes) of crude oil of US origin grades to diversify term crude sources in 2019-20 fiscal. The enterprise has finalised the contact on February 15, 2019.   The value of the cont

For a healthy tomorrow

When Dr Shruti Kamdi (pictured on left), a transfusion specialist at a leading Mumbai hospital, had her first child, she struggled to nurse her baby as she was unable to secrete enough milk. Admitted to a private hospital, she was put on medication to increase breast milk. But that didn’t help much.

Reinvigorating reinsurance

After the liberalisation of the insurance industry in 2000, private firms (mostly in partnerships with foreign firms) have readily taken to the sector. Till FY18 there were 23 private firms in the life insurance sector and 21 in general insurance segment. However, it was only in 2016-17 that the first priv

Current Issue

Current Issue

Video

CM Nitish’s convoy attacked in Buxar

Opinion

Facebook    Twitter    Google Plus    Linkedin    Subscribe Newsletter

Twitter