Love Sonia comes at a time when a 200 million-strong strike was held in India and 5 million women formed a wall of protest. The correlation between films about resistance and women’s rights in India and the explosive movements on the streets that the country has seen is not necessarily direct. But it is no surprise that the struggles that occur in the real world force the film industry to adapt to reflect and embolden the mood for change.
Tabrez Noorani’s film is refreshing and honest — a heart-wrenching coming of age story of a young woman’s courage in the face of brutal injustice, poverty and sexism. It sparks questions which delve further into why Indian society is failing women.
The story follows two adolescent sisters growing up in rural India, who get caught up in the horrific world of sex trafficking and must fight to find a way out. It unapologetically exposes the harsh realities that poor Indian women are burdened with in a country which neglects young girls and reveres young men.
Sonia is searching for freedom and as her journey takes a darker turn into a world dominated by men, we yearn for the moments in which she was able to live for herself. We root for her when she is forced to grow up too soon and realises the illusion of choice the world offers her. We hope she will see the power of rebellion in the face of her oppression.
Noorani touches on the significance of “shadism” in India. Sonia, who is dark-skinned, is encouraged to buy a skin-lightening cream when another female character tells her how beautiful she will look. The film also shows the greater expectations placed on her sister, Preeti, because she is light-skinned.
Love Sonia is groundbreaking in uncovering a deeply pressing issue which is often overlooked. The film rightly suggests that sex trafficking is not an isolated issue and implicates a much deeper problem of poverty and oppression in Indian society. Unlike other films which talk about women who suffer repression and inequality, Love Sonia is a story of triumph that does not just portray its female protagonist as a victim but as an active fighter in defiance of patriarchy, exploitation and violence.