‘Soni:’ A placid attempt at highlighting violence against women

The horrific case of Nirbhaya brought into sharp focus the crimes against women in Delhi. (Screen shot)
Updated 12 September 2018
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‘Soni:’ A placid attempt at highlighting violence against women

VENICE: The horrific case of Nirbhaya — a young medical intern who was raped on a moving bus in 2012 — brought into sharp focus the crimes against women in Delhi. Ivan Ayr’s “Soni” plays on its after-effects as two female police officers show us what it takes to keep the streets of the city safe at night.

Screened at the Venice film festival, “Soni” is a no-nonsense movie about a young policewoman by the same name (Geetika Vidya Ohlyan) and her boss, Kalpana (Saloni Batra). Together, they scout the streets of Delhi to prevent rape and other acts against women. In a highly male-dominated, patriarchal society, theirs is no easy task.

Ayr’s narrative relies on the simple complexities of a young female cop whose married life is in shambles, but whose passion and dedication toward her profession continues to remain strong.

And while “Soni” could have succumbed to exaggerations and unnecessary dramatic turns, Ayr stops himself short of falling into this trap.

That doesn’t mean the movie is not flawed in any way. The protagonist has a mercurial temper and is not forgiving. When her estranged husband arrives home to surprise her, Soni is cold, distant and hostile even as he begs her for a second chance.

Outside the home, her temper gets her into a slew of troubles. In one of the early scenes of the film, as she cycles through Delhi on a cold night, she is harassed by a man. Something snaps in her, and, in a fit of rage, she unleashes her wrath on him, eventually landing him in hospital. The incident puts Kalpana to shame, forcing her to question whether Soni needed to “have hit him so hard that he had to be rushed to hospital.”

Ayr walks us through several such confrontationist situations, where Kalpana is at her wit’s end trying to help Soni curb her temper.

But even that does little to temper the film — while it has its emotional high points, it runs a mostly placid course otherwise.


Miles Davis and all that jazz

Miles Davis teaches actress Jeanne Moreau to play the trumpet. (AFP)
Updated 19 September 2018
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Miles Davis and all that jazz

  • Thankfully, the tapes were rolling on Dec. 19, 1970 — just one more historic evening when Miles changed music forever, before tearing up the rulebook again in pursuit of that most quixotic muse

ROTTERDAM: Miles Davis once claimed to have “changed music five or six times,” and while a man known for neither understatement nor modesty, some argue that the jazz icon sold himself short — biographer John Szwed once traced at least nine musical subgenres either born or shaped by Davis’ innovations. 

The revolutionary shopping list includes inventing cool-jazz in the 1940s, spawning hard bop, modal jazz and third-stream in the 1950s, and pioneering post-bop in the 1960s. However, the stylistic sea change Davis devoted most blood, sweat and tape toward were the ‘70s adventures in fusion most often epitomized by “B*****s Brew”, the first of ten dense double-LPs (plus two singles) recorded in just five years — which over 44 sides of vinyl explored and/or anticipated jazz-rock, funk, ambient, minimalism, worldbeat, psychedelic, space-jazz and even techno.

Trippy stuff, for sure, but not always easily listenable. Not the case with the misleadingly titled “Live-Evil” (1971) — a part-studio, mostly live set which captures Davis’ increasingly oblique electric permutations at their most fun, and funky. The bulk of the 102-minute runtime documents a one-night encounter with guest guitarist John McLaughlin, whose furious fretwork conceals an unusually ragged looseness and bluesy simplicity.

Such a raw approach suits the thick, squelchy grooves conjured by electric bassist Michael Henderson — recently recruited from Aretha Franklin’s band — grounding the untethered attack of drummer Jack DeJohnette’s crazed rock rhythms.

Recorded at the height of his boxing obsession, there’s a controlled aggression to Davis’ playing — the hurried rhythms of jabs and parries, ducks and dives — his horn harshly amplified through a wah-wah guitar pedal in a wholehearted Hendrix homage.

What little harmony there is comes from Keith Jarrett, whose overdriven organ scurries lend a frazzled energy and cerebral counter-balance. Soon after Jarrett — now the most renowned solo pianist on the planet — would quit and disavow electronic instruments altogether.

Thankfully, the tapes were rolling on Dec. 19, 1970 — just one more historic evening when Miles changed music forever, before tearing up the rulebook again in pursuit of that most quixotic muse.