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Soni

Movie review by
Barbara Shulgas..., Common Sense Media
Soni Movie Poster Image
Female Indian cops target male predators; cursing, violence.
  • NR
  • 2018
  • 97 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

It can be hard to fight feeling of futility when trying to achieve something difficult. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

As a supervisor, Kalpana is both an exacting taskmaster and an empathetic and understanding boss. Soni's anger over losing a baby manifests with her short temper when dealing with criminals.

Violence

An undercover cop pretends to be an unaccompanied woman; when a predator attacks her, she beats him badly, until her squad stops her. She tries to oust male drug users from a ladies' room. When one man insults her sexually, she slaps him and he attacks her. Her hand is bruised. A young woman says she protected herself from unwanted attentions of men by dressing like boy.

Sex

A police unit tries to stop attacks on women. A man calls a woman a "dirty c--t," as he's about to try to rape her. Men speak vulgarly of women. Women complain of being groped by men. A woman complains that her landlord was willing to cut a deal if she had sex with him.

Language

"F--k," "s--t," "c--t," "bastard," "bitch," "ass," and "hell."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A man is arrested for cocaine use. Adults smoke cigarettes.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Soni is a Hindi-language film with English subtitles depicting efforts to change deeply entrenched anti-female attitudes and prevent anti-female violence in big-city India today. A female Delhi police officer leading a task force to combat crimes against women faces politics and corruption in her own department as well as the hair-trigger temper of one of her most dedicated officers, a young woman going through difficult family issues. Attempted sexual assaults of women as well as drug use are depicted. Language includes "f--k," "s--t," "bitch," "bastard," "ass," and "c--t." A man is arrested for cocaine use. Adults smoke cigarettes.

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What's the story?

Although SONI doesn't explain the state-of-emergency nature of India's fight against widespread, culturally sanctioned violence against women and girls, the movie provides a slice-of-life look at how one local urban police force tries, in some small way, to deal with the problem. According to their National Crimes Records Bureau, in 2016, rape of minor females in India increased by 82 percent over the year before. Soni (Geetika Vidya Ohlyan) is a somber and dedicated female police officer working with a unit trying to catch men who assault women in the streets of Delhi. She poses as an innocent woman walking down a dark street, and when a man following her on bike harasses her, she beats him up. Fellow officers in her unit have to pull her off. The rage within her is related to her recent pregnancy termination and the unsupportive response by her husband to the situation. Her superior, Kalpana (Saloni Batra), is empathetic and understanding but requires that Soni behave according to police regulations. Because she admires Soni's dedication, she steps up to save her subordinate from disciplinary action from higher-ups, who are mostly male. The movie makes it clear that while local and national policies may be changing to recognize and combat widespread violence against women, attitudes at work and at home haven't changed much. Kalpana is smart, competent, and mostly well-respected at work, but at home, her mother doesn't hesitate to berate her publicly for not having a child. Soni's older female neighbor constantly badgers her about getting back together with her estranged husband, making it clear that being a woman alone or a woman without a child is socially unacceptable.    

Is it any good?

Despite the obvious good intentions and solid performances in this movie, there still seems to be a meandering quality about it that leaves a viewer feeling the director has no urgent point to make. The material here -- the threat posed by ordinary men to women and girls who simply walk down Delhi streets --  is for older teens only, but Soni is often so slow-moving that it feels as if the filmmakers and performers have forgotten what point they are trying to make, which may not attract an Instagram-trained audience. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the difficulty of changing a culture of discrimination. Soni assumes viewers are familiar with high sexual assault rates by men against women in India. In light of that situation, do you think the suggested remedy of running all-female public transportation with female police officers on board will make women safer in urban India? Why or why not?

  • The movie suggests that although Indian women seek to have equality in the workplace and in the streets, women themselves remain extremely critical of other women. How do family members and friends put down both Kalpana and Soni in the film?

  • Although Kalpana is directed by a superior to drop charges against a well-connected drug user and assailant, she chooses to charge him anyway. Do you think the movie is suggesting that sometimes playing by the rules will only perpetuate bad policies? Do you think it's OK to get into trouble with your boss sometimes in order to help make progress?

Movie details

For kids who love girl power

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