Sonata movie cast: Aparna Sen, Shabana Azmi, Lillete Dubey
Sonata movie director: Aparna Sen
Sonata star rating: 2 stars
Three women, freed from the preening-pouting shackles of mainstream cinema. These are women of a certain age, who have grown into their skin, comfortable being themselves. Such women are almost never seen on our screens, unless they are appendages — a principal character’s mother or aunt or `saas’ or `bhabhi’. Here, the trio is lubricated by a great deal of red wine. And surrounded by a beautifully appointed living room. What’s not to like?
Surprisingly, and disappointingly, not as much I wanted to. Neither the performances from these strong actors who have been known to raise the rafters, nor the conversation whorls within this chamber piece, based on a Mahesh Elkunchwar play, lift off the screen.
It is hard to film a play, but some of the best filmed theatre does manage to open up a third dimension, situating the characters in spaces which invite you to go deeper. Sonata, unfortunately, stays determinedly on the surface.
Each of these women, who went to college together, is given interesting contours. Dolon (Shabana Azmi) is a Rabindra Sangeet-singing-banker who shares the apartment with Aruna (Aparna Sen), a professor and author, struggling with pending chapters: the third, Subhi aka Subhadra is a journalist, with a complicated personal life.
Most of the time is spent in us listening in on the conversation, some of it stilted and stagey, between Dolon and Aruna, punctuated briefly by Subhi’s arrival-and-departure. As they talk through the evening, waiting for a fourth friend, we expect the layers to be shed, and we hope to start seeing the women for who they really are.
But that doesn’t happen. That crucial device, an uncovering of the past to understand the present, of laying bare dark secrets, isn’t as much of a dramatic reveal as it should have been, even though it’s the best part of the film.
And the way it ends, dragging in a horrific recent catastrophe without any real impact, seals it. My best takeaway from Sonata? Azmi’s singing voice. It’s lovely.