The recent Netflix crime-drama, Soni is a film about two female cops trying to do their job in a world run by men.
It’s a slice from their lives with which the film exposes major issues- how they always live on edge amidst constant threats with compromised liberty to exercise their power, how society ‘advises’ them to escape dangerous situations, and shows the significance of female solidarity as the bedrock of their lives.
The story follows Soni, a sub-inspector and Kalpana, her boss, through their undercover mission to make the streets of Delhi safe for women.
Directed by Ivan Ayr, its poignant portrayal of gender politics has already won it the Oxfam Award for ‘Gender Equality’ category at the 2018 MAMI Film Festival.
From getting ridiculed for something as natural as getting our periods, to being sexually harassed on the street, the movie shows how the world is casually hostile to women.
And all of this is shown without the tinsiest touch of drama. The film doesn’t pack a ‘punch’, per se. And that’s the beauty of it. It carries and delivers the message with subtlety. You don’t have a grisly crime actually being committed in the duration of the film. But, it dangerously comes close to it. How and why?
The film cleverly portrays how female cops constantly exist on the edge of horrific gender-based crimes.
The opening scene of the film, where we see Soni being eve-teased and subjected to unsolicited comments while she’s going her way, paints a sharp reality of the world where women constantly exist on the edge of horrific crimes.
It can’t be denied that men in our society grow up with certain privileges that are not privy to women. This conditioning also becomes the root of the problem that women are treated as somewhat second-class citizens. Now imagine how the dynamics will come into play if the offender is a male and the law executioner, a woman?
Netflix’s ‘Soni’ shows how female cops’ authority is disregarded, they are patronised, and even subjected to unsolicited advances.
The film reflects the reality of how women officers are literally targeted for doing their job.
Men in the film, high on drugs/alcohol, and high on the pedestal the society has put them – refuse to listen to Soni’s directions. Soni encounters three drug users getting high in a women’s washroom. The goons later pelt her home with stones, because Soni dared to face them instead of letting them go.
The situation is no different if the setting is changed from the public sphere to the private sphere.
‘Soni’ brilliantly portrays women’s leadership constantly being undermined by men in society, as women are rendered too ‘soft’ or ’emotional’ to do their job.
Kalpana is married to Sandeep, who holds the office of an IPS. He, multiple times, questions Kalpana’s authority, schools her as to how she should do her own job, berates her for going ‘soft’ or ‘emotional’ with her subordinates, and by the end of the film, also brings her validity as a cop into question.
In order to alleviate this evil that society itself has garnered, it ‘advises’ women to be/act in a certain way or best, always have a man accompany you. And you’d think the situation gets different for female cops, but it doesn’t.
The film is a biting reality of today’s society in which men only consider a woman off-limits if she’s guarded or accompanied by another man.
Soni’s ex, Naveen, tries to make amends in their relationship, by claiming that Soni ‘needs’ him after the attack at her place. To assert this same point, we have Soni’s neighbour, Mrs. Huma, who suggests she apply sindoor while she’s out, to protect herself from loose comments and/or worse.
The ridiculousness of the unsolicited advice (and the fact that they think they’re trying to help) shows to what extent we have internalised this understanding.
The film also sheds light on societal and familial pressure to have a child and build a family that is not suspended even if you’re a cop. No regard is genuinely given to your priorities or career goals. Ironically, male officers are not subjected to the same expectations.
Kalpana’s sister-in-law and mother-in-law persistently ‘advise’ her to have a child. And while everyone gangs up on Kalpana, her husband (who’s also a cop) does not have to address or respond to such pressure.
But what makes it all okay and worth fighting for, in the end?
Female solidarity. Netflix’s ‘Soni’ reiterates that in a world that constantly puts women down, female solidarity becomes the bedrock of their lives.
Even though Soni works under Kalpana, their friendship and understanding drive home the relevance of female solidarity in a world predominantly dictated by men. We see Kalpana connect with Soni at a point she’s not able to connect with any other women in her personal life. The pressure she faces at home is relieved in the understanding presence of Soni.
The film ingeniously draws attention to phenomena that we ignore or don’t give adequate attention to, that basically add to the danger and frustration of being a woman in a world run by men. And amidst all this, we have two female cops trying to win authority over their own decisions, their own space, and their own lives, one night-duty at a time.
Images are screenshots of the film/trailer, unless stated otherwise.