According to a survey carried out by the Thomas Reuters Foundation, India is the most dangerous country in the world for women. It’s in the top 3 for both sexual and non-sexual violence, cultural traditions and discrimination. Many Indians, both male and female, still believe that women should stick to their traditional gender roles, whilst violence and verbal abuse can be often be a sad fact of life. Ivan Ayr’s debut film, Soni, follows two policewomen as they try and make a change in Delhi.
Soni (Geetika Vidya Ohlyan) is a young and determined policewoman who acts as bait in police sting operations. Her role calls for self-defence training but her hot-headed temperament leads to her repeatedly crossing the line and putting her career in jeopardy. This drives her superintendent Kalpana (Saloni Batra) to distraction. The pair have a good personal and professional relationship but Soni’s recklessness leaves her boss with the difficult task of supporting her.
Soni is a beautifully shot and meticulously crafted drama which focuses on the daily struggles faced by women in India and how any attempts to address the issues often come up against a wall of opposition. Whilst there have been many horrendous stories of abuse and sexual assault coming out of the country, it’s a testament to Ayr’s mature film-making that by concentrating on the culmination of regular abuse, Soni becomes such a powerful argument for urgent change. Not only is it a comment on wider society, it’s a study of female power dynamics in a male-dominated world.
Soni screens at London Film Festival on 12 October.