‘Love Sonia’ presents a tragic picture of trafficked women

A still from ‘Love Sonia.'
Updated 18 September 2018
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‘Love Sonia’ presents a tragic picture of trafficked women

  • Sucked into the seedy trade of human trafficking, Sonia is not only raped and punished for not falling in line

CHENNAI: Trafficked women are humans — and that’s exactly what director Tabrez Noorani wants us to remember with “Love Sonia.”
Written by Ted Caplan and Alkesh Vaja, the film infuses a sense of endearing humanism into the narrative as it trains the spotlight on tortured women who find themselves involved in the sex trade.
Inspired by true events and shot in a documentary style, “Love Sonia” captures the horrifying reality of Mumbai’s underbelly — where men, trying to make a fast buck, turn into monsters by trafficking innocent teenagers.
One of the most fascinating aspects of the film is its characterization. Whether it is debt-ridden farmer Shivaji (Adil Hussain), ruthless brothel owner Rashmi (Freida Pinto) — hardened over the years — or Madhuri (Richa Chadha) whose transformation into a good Samaritan is one of the film’s highlights, all characters have been created to perfection.
Prime among them is Faizal (Manoj Bajpayee) who acts as both a mentor and romantic interest to the girls.
One of these girls is Sonia, 17, who is pushed into the dark confines of a brothel after she goes searching for her sister, sold to moneylender Baldev Singh (Anupam Kher), by their father, Shivaji.
What a superlative performance Mrunal Thakur delivers as the title character. Sucked into the seedy trade of human trafficking, Sonia is not only raped and punished for not falling in line, but shipped away in containers to Hong Kong and later Los Angeles, too — her agonizing cries for help panning across continents.
Manish (Rajkummar Rao) enters the film as a savior, but Sonia is too broken by now to believe that not all men are beasts and pushes him away. For most of the film, the director remains steadfast in his commitment to present a heart-rending picture of prostitutes, with Lucas Bielan’s lens acting as a constant reminder of the fact that women of supposed ill repute could be trapped in a cage.


Ear cleaners, roadside clerks: antiquated jobs thrive in Yangon

This photo taken on December 5, 2018 shows typist Aung Min working on a customer's document with his old typewriter along Pansodan Street in Yangon. (AFP)
Updated 16 December 2018
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Ear cleaners, roadside clerks: antiquated jobs thrive in Yangon

  • Yangon’s growth — statistics show the population has nearly doubled since 1983 to reach 7.3 million — has left city services struggling to catch up

YANGON: Ear cleaners, roadside plumbers and typewriters for hire: just a sample of the antiquated jobs found on the pavements of Yangon’s Pansodan Street, where old-world businesses still find customers.
For years, tourists have been fascinated by odd trades in Yangon, from cycle trishaws swerving through traffic to roadside clerks going clickety-clack on typewriters.
Some professions have become victims of the political and economic reforms that started in earnest in 2011.
Iced water sellers melted away as improved power supplies made fridges viable; bus conductors lost out in the revamp of the city’s transportation network; and landline phone stalls are a relic in the mobile era.
But Pansodan, the beating heart of Myanmar’s biggest city, remains home to obscure professions and evokes nostalgia among those who have plied their trade for decades along the potholed pavements below aging colonial architecture.
“This is the street for the books, for the writers, for the poets. Everyone comes, everyone learns here,” Aung Soe Min, a long-time gallery owner on Pansodan, tells AFP.
“Everything you need to know, you can come to Pansodan.”
Built by the British and once called Phayre Street, the downtown artery runs south from the train station to the river, where traders arrive by morning ferry.

Yangon’s growth — statistics show the population has nearly doubled since 1983 to reach 7.3 million — has left city services struggling to catch up.
The annual monsoon season clogs decades-old plumbing networks and that is when Min Aung is busiest.
Sitting among plungers, pipes and a spare toilet lid serving as an advertisement for his services, the 58-year-old is a veteran of Yangon’s small army of streetside plumbers who still find work in the rapidly modernizing commercial capital.
“As long as there are toilets, there is work for us,” Min Aung tells AFP, puffing a cheroot as morning traffic whooshes by.
Close by is Khin Ohn Myint, 47, who provides quick manicures, fixes ingrown toenails and syringes ears to remove wax build-up.
“I didn’t have money to invest in other businesses, so I did this for a living,” she says, smiling.
Earning around $10 a day, she has put her children through university so they can pursue other careers.
She says she enjoys helping relieve people’s suffering and has even had to remove the occasional cockroach from a customer’s ear.
“Pansodan is a historic street for us,” she says as she digs out a piece of dirt from under a customer’s toenail.

The street is also famous for its pavement booksellers whose offerings include everything from 19th-century literary classics to tomes on Myanmar’s real estate laws and taboo subjects like the Rohingya crisis.
Its reputation as a place to read and access ideas gave it the nickname Pansodan University.
Tin Than has sold books here since 1980, but most of his competitors have shut shop.
“Now I only have around two or three customers each month,” he says.
The prime location has given him a front-row seat to historic events such as the 2007 “Saffron Revolution” when Buddhist monks staged a rare protest against the junta.
“When others started packing their books and closing their shops, I also had to close and run away. The riots happened right before my eyes.”
Aung Min was trained to use a typewriter in the military.
But he retired in 1980 and the 72-year-old has been working on Pansodan ever since.
“Computers were not so popular in the old days, so people had to rely on typewriters,” he said.
Based outside the High Court, Aung Min specializes in legal documents, from marriage certificates to notarised letters.
Although living costs have increased in the intervening years, he struggles to make more than 5,000 kyat ($3) a day — a sign that Myanmar’s transition is passing some people by.
He intends to keep working until he is 80 at least. “There were two or three typewriters on this street; we had our own customers,” he said.
“I am the only typewriter left here nowadays.”