When a play is turned into cinema, perhaps the
claustrophobic one-set atmosphere should give way to a few gulps of fresh air.
Especially if two people are going to be talking non-stop with two or three
faces popping in to use the set like a transit lounge. In fact ‘transit lounge’
is just what journo Shubadra says when she breezes in to bring in the expected
bashed up woman-in-love character. “But you won’t understand,” she tells her
spinster friend. “It’s a man-woman thing.” And she returns to her alcoholic boyfriend,
just for kicks, I suppose.
You return to the two main characters in the room. Dr Aruna
Chaturvedi and Dolan Sen who share a roof, pack everything they have to say to
each other in one evening, making a rather sad comment on single women even as
Aparna valiantly tries to establish that they’re fine without a man in their
lives. Even their maid makes a dig at their barren lives. But there’s
excitement when Meera Rao, a college mate who’s introduced over Skype, has a firang
boyfriend she promises to bring over for dinner. Yeah, she’s got herself a man.And
she’s got her own past that’s narrated by Aruna and Dolan.
A four-women story, there are two turning points
towards the end that unfortunately don’t really come as a surprise. One is
between Aruna and Dolan as the room turns into a
confession box and of course it involves a man. The other is the finale which
is also expected given the date and the venue that’s carefully placed in the
But the biggest disappointment comes from the UP accent
that Aparna forces on herself as Chaturvedi and on Meera Rao who speaks English
like a mimicry artist doing a take-off on South Indians. From the director of Mr And
Mrs Iyer who got Konkona Sen to change her accent so professionally and
beautifully, it is a huge letdown that this very departmentstands out and jars.
For me, only Shabana Azmi’s performance worked, as she
let her weight show and her makeup go awry as the evening wore on and the wine
bottle was emptied.
This is ultimately niche cinema that will have its
slim percentage of multiplex viewers.
For a film that’s like a slow-moving theatre play on
celluloid, Sonata gets a 2.5* rating.
Bharathi S Pradhan
Journalist & Author