Movie Review: Love Sonia

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Besides missing a punctuation mark in the title, “Love Sonia” is lacking in several other things. Plausible plot points, for one. Tabrez Noorani, who has produced films in Hollywood and seems to have access there, assembles some well-known names for his film (Mark Duplass, Demi Moore and Freida Pinto), but the heft of the cast doesn’t quite translate onto the screen.

The film begins in an arid village where sisters Preeti (Riya Sisodiya) and Sonia (Mrunal Thakur) live. Their father is under crippling debt, and the sisters do everything in the fields to help him out, but it doesn’t add up to much. Frustrated, the farmer sells Preeti to the local landlord, who sends her to Mumbai to work in the flesh trade. This fact is obvious to everyone except to naïve Sonia, who genuinely believes her sister has gone to the big city to look for gainful employment.

Desperate to be reunited with her sister, Sonia implores the landlord (Anupam Kher) to send her to the city, but ends up being pushed into the flesh trade herself. She finds herself in a seedy brothel in the worst part of town and unable to escape. Noorani doesn’t hold back any punches. The squalor, Sonia’s predicament and her frantic search for Preeti, are all depicted in great detail.

But unfortunately, “Love Sonia” can’t help using an old Bollywood trope – it moves the story to a foreign locale. Sonia finds herself trafficked to Hong Kong and then to Los Angeles, an outlandish twist whose only purpose seems to be to accommodate Moore and Duplass on screen.

Of the cast, Richa Chadda brings a "been there, done that" sense to her character of Madhuri, Sonia's guiding spirit in the brothel. Freida Pinto mouths all sorts of expletives and almost spits out her dialogue as Rashmi, the sex worker who has her fangs out for Sonia. But she is hardly effective.

To her credit, Thakur is sincere as Sonia, but both she and Sisodiya look out of place in the dirt and grime of the farm and brothel. They seem far too polished, their accents far too sophisticated to appear convincingly as poor village girls. No amount of fake tans or stained clothes can mask that. And that is, in many ways, the problem with “Love Sonia”. It tries to bring glamour to a subject where there is none.