Thursday, April 20, 2017

Review: SONATA

Sexless In The City

2 stars

Mini Review:

Mahesh Elkunchvar’s Marathi play Sonata has been shot by a movie camera. But the inherent problem remains: it portrays single women in the city as unhappy because they don’t have a man in their lives, and if they are in a relationship, it is abusive. In one fell swoop it insults all single women and such a shame that three wonderful actors fell to this pretentious excuse of ‘a play that speaks in the female voice’.

Main Review:

Just Plain Awful Conversation

‘I’m exuberantly happy, ecstatically so!’

‘I sway through life with abandonment.’

‘I don’t like perfume, I want to smell of my man.’

(Ewww! She doesn’t bathe?!)

‘We all live in boxes, you, me and that woman in the window.’

‘Only in their briefs! I wonder who gets to bed them’ (Looking at an ad about men’s underwear on TV)

WHO SPEAKS LIKE THAT? The film introduces three lifelong friends, two single, one in a ‘relationship’ with such awkward sentences.  

Looks like these women have been living in a cocoon instead of the real world. Ogling at men’s underwear ads? Never heard of Internet, miss? They speak of pornography and giggle. They’re still in rental VHS world.

Even when they say, ‘We earn, we spend. We don’t do charity. And we’re not even Feminists,’
you know it’s for effect.  

And if you have any LGBTQ friends or are simply better aware of the world, then you realise that if these friends have indeed helped Sameer transform into Sameera, then they would never say, ‘Is my touch dirty?’ or ‘Do you think I’m like that?’

Then to add to inadvertent fun, they claim to have sold ‘Grandmother’s family jewels’ to help Sameer, which makes you wonder if poor grandpa were in pain…

No Mr. Big. No High Heels. Just Desperation.

Aparna Sen who directs the film should have known better. She lapses into her Bengali accent so much that you wonder why she could not be Bengali professor of ancient languages. Why Arundhati Chaudhari from UP? She could have been saying ‘Hain’ like Amitabh Bachchan or be chewing on a Benarsi paan and she would not have come across as a North Indian.

Shabana Azmi is Dolon, the chirpy friend who is supposed to be an H.O.D in a Bank. Whaaa? At a bank? Head of the Department are seen in colleges… A banker is a banker, no?

Even though her chirpiness seems fake, ‘Put MTV on, I’m changing!’, she sings Rabindra Sangeet like a dream! When she emerges in a saree and proceeds to sing, she deserves a star and half for just that. She actually saves the film despite the awful confession scene which keeps the ancient male myth alive: women fight over men.

Lillete Dubey shows up with gifts from London (comes across more of an air stewardess than a journalist). Do article-writing journalists get paid enough to travel to London, and then get fired because their article was edited? Didn’t collate. She is made to dance awkwardly on Babuji Dheere Chalna and you feel pity for the woman rather than think of her as ‘cool’.

She’s in an abusive relationship with a chap who owns a garage (really?), and throws things down at him (He’s raving and ranting under the window).

The women talk so much you want to step into their kholi (ten by ten they keep saying, and it looks like a well-appointed apartment) and duct tape their mouths. It’s supposed to be banter, but it’s mostly unmitigated balderdash, pretentious mouthfuls of words like, ‘He’s a celebrated, internationally renowned artist. He still has fire in his eyes, but it’s mixed with pain now.’

The conversation does show how fragile the three women are, but it is so tiring to watch, you wish you had a hip flask with something stronger than the color changing wine the three drink. You don’t want to know why the straight-laced Arundhati suddenly chooses to drink after twenty something years of being a teetotaler. But you just wish Sameera and Peter would show up and end this fake drunkenness.

Update The Film. It’s Not A One-Act Play  
I do wish they had updated the Marathi play, talked to single women about their concerns today, and their lives instead of trusting a playwright who thinks women who live alone in apartments lead miserable and sad lives. (The woman in the window is called ‘Tuk Tuk’ in the play and ‘Typo’ in the film.)
If only the filmmaker had read Marathi stage reviews, she would have realised that people found the premise that independent women come to grief, not satisfactory at all way back in the year 2000 when Gargi Phule, Rajshree Wadh-Sawant and Ashwini Giri reprised the roles.

Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple worked marvelously on film, and Polanski’s Carnage did too. But somehow, the stereotypes in Sonata, despite the huge potential, remains just that. Shame that after writing Wada Chirebandi and Haravlele Pratibimb the playwright chose to stumble in the dark with this subject.

Yes, if one and a half star is earned by Shabana Azmi’s singing, what about the other half star? It is earned by the scene where they flop on the sofa doubled in laughter and that one deft touch of direction when Lilette Dubey is throwing things down at her boyfriend and Shabana Azmi persuades her to leave the vase and throw the empty wine bottle instead.

P.S. Whatever happened to the rice washed and kept aside for dinner?

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