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This article was first published 1 year ago  » Movies » Siya Review

Siya Review

September 16, 2022 15:54 IST
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Siya captures the wounded soul of its protagonist with deeply felt grit and pathos, observes Sukanya Verma.

It is a cold winter's night in a far-flung village of North India when a teenage girl steps out a little distance from her rundown hut to relieve herself. An atmosphere of dread fills up the air as the camera sets its steady gaze on her remote presence against an eerily dark setting.

The anticipation of violence in Siya's opening scene is a forewarning of the bleak road ahead.

Newcomer Pooja Pandey plays Siya, a hardworking girl, going about the daily chores at home and outside while her charpai-warming father orders about like a typical patriarch in rural Uttar Pradesh. Neighbourhood eve-teasers abound and tense confrontations between Siya and them explain why she's desperate to flee to Delhi.

When the moment it's all building towards arrives, the horror of it reveals itself in haunting stages of violation.

Calling to mind the memories of 2017's Unnao rape case, a minor is gangraped by the local vidhayak's kin and his cronies.


Tied, tortured, beaten and brutalised, the inhumanity inflicted on the Devganj resident disturbs long after you've left the theatre.

Films on rape are never easy to watch and Siya's abuse is acutely highlighted in scenes where she's chained to a bed while -- just a stone's throw away -- remorseless men enjoy a meal, cattle freely grazes through grass and even flies enjoy full autonomy over the filth that's gathered around the titular heroine.

The visuals don't linger on her state as much as watch her plight from a trembling distance in the manner of Udta Punjab.

But Siya's humiliation has only just started as the deep rot running the system repeatedly robs her of her dignity and rights.

Between callous, unhelpful cops destroying evidence and covering up for influential politicians well-versed in intimidation tactics and Siya's story pushed to Page 8 news, the hurdles are endless.

It's not just the region's rampant casteist politics and manipulations within the law and order but also the sheer disregard for protocol that forms the focus of producer-turned-filmmaker Manish Mundra's supremely sceptical eye.

When a lady judge scoffs, 'Procedure toh kabhi follow nahi karte', the indignation in her tone is telling that it's not the first time she's learned protocol was broken, nor, unfortunately, the last.

Hailing from a humble background, Siya's family is ill-equipped to pursue justice the way she would like.

Instead, her daadi presses her feet, her kid brother wraps her in a warm embrace and her mom cooks her favourite food -- well-meaning affection is all they understand.

Sympathetic family friend and small-time lawyer Mahinder (Vineet Kumar Singh) is her only ally whose efforts to smash the patriarchy have a soothing, rehabilitating impact on Siya. A frame of Lord Hanuman conspicuously is on display in his room lest we miss the symbolism in his virtue.

Though inspired by true events, Siya's story is hardly new and has formed the premise for numerous Bollywood potboilers and its revengeful agendas. But Manish Mundra's directorial debut mirrors his sensibilities as a champion of meaningful indies such as Ankhon Dekhi, Masaan and Newton.

His craft doesn't rely on histrionics and melodrama for effect.

Rooted in realism and striking visuals by Rafey Mahmood and Subhranshu Kumar Das's inspiring camerawork, Siya captures the wounded soul of its protagonist with deeply felt grit and pathos.

While the ever solid Vineet Kumar Singh's empathetic depiction comes as no surprise, Pooja Pandey's subdued portrait of turmoil is praiseworthy. She rarely speaks, but Siya's agony colours her eyes.

That the future of justice for her is as murky as the history of violence may seem an awfully cynical worldview to conclude.

But at a time when gangrape convicts are set free even after receiving life sentences, Mundra's pessimism doesn't feel out of place.

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