Abhishek Chaubey’s Sonchiriya - the most underrated Bollywood film in recent times

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Sonchiriya, poster

Abhishek Chaubey’s hard-hitting dacoit drama Sonchiriya is currently streaming on ZEE5. So if you haven’t watched it already, you can watch Sonchiriya online. The gripping crime drama revolves around a bunch of dacoits inhabiting the Chambal valley in the mid-’70s. Sonchiriya stars Sushant Singh Rajput, Bhumi Pednekar, Manoj Bajpayee, Ranvir Shorey and Ashutosh Rana. The film narrates the story of a gang of dreaded dacoits which gets split after the death of their leader.

Caste system and gender inequality are two of the biggest problems that continue to plague Indian society, and Sonchiriya doesn’t back down from asking different questions. There is a scene in the movie wherein the famed Bandit Queen of Chambal aka Phoolan Devi tells a woman that only the men have different castes and that the caste system doesn’t apply to women, for all men regardless of their castes consider women to be beneath them. The scene is a powerful reminder of the deep-seated caste system and patriarchy in our society. Sonchiriya has some of the most amazing dialogues that you would come across in a Hindi film in recent times. Also, the film is heavily loaded with deep socio-political ideas. Nothing that we see can merely be taken for its face value. The violence in Sonchiriya is never gratifying, for it makes us question the insanity that drives it.
Manoj Bajpayee in Sonchiriya
Manoj Bajpayee in Sonchiriya 
There was a time when the Chambal Valley used to be a haven for the dacoits. But now the ravines of Chambal are no longer safe for these rebels owing to the regular countercharges from the local police as well as the state-appointed special task forces. Once invincible, these dacoits are now mostly on the run. Also, there was a lot of infighting which slowly crippled them from within. Clearly, they have outlived their days in the Chambal valley, but their undying spirit for survival is still pretty much intact. Sonchiriya is influenced by some of the best Western genre films made by Hollywood as well as Indian dacoit dramas. The classic movies that come to mind are Sam Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch, John Sturges’ The Magnificent Seven, Ramesh Sippy’s Sholay, and Shekhar Kapoor’s Bandit Queen, among others. So, if you are a fan of those films, then Sonchiriya wouldn’t disappoint you.
Ranvir Shorey in Sonchiriya
Ranvir Shorey in Sonchiriya
Chaubey, who has previously made films like Ishqiya and Udta Punjab, understands the importance of strong characters very well. Instead of giving us larger than life characters in Sonchiriya, he gives us characters that are believable. In their vulnerability lies their redemption. Sonchiriya doesn’t rely on cheap entertainment gimmicks but uses good old storytelling tropes to narrate a powerful tale of pride, honour, trust, and betrayal. The realism employed by Chaubey to tell his story makes it even more compelling. Sonchiriya’s cinematography is easily one of its strongest points. Also, the performances are brilliant all around, and it would be safe to say that each character has lived and breathed their respective roles. Ranvir Shorey is the first amongst equals. With each new performance Shorey comes up with something new to offer, and Sonchiriya is no exception. Sushant Singh Rajput and Bhumi Pednekar are also very good in their respective roles. The veteran actor Manoj Bajpayee once again manages to make his presence felt in a special appearance. One really wonders why Sonchiriya despite all its merits remains the most underrated Bollywood film in recent times.
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