Receiving it’s UK premiere at Sheffield Doc Fest, Shut Up Sona is part of the Rhyme & Rhythm strand in the 2020 festival.
Shut Up Sona follows musician Sona Mohapatra over a 3 year period. Never heard of her? Neither had I, but that doesn’t matter. The film shows us the many spectrums of Sona’s life, not just a singer, songwriter and composer, but a fierce advocate for women’s rights who leads on India’s #MeToo movement and receives daily death threats as well as blasphemy lawsuits for appearing in low cut outfits on stage.
Sona is one of the most successful female recording artists in India, however she is not allowed to headline music festivals without a successful man on stage with her. She gives powerful and moving renditions of traditional folk music, modernising and updating them to deliver to new audiences. But others in the country call for her removal from the public eye because she dares to sing them in modern or western clothing.
Part of what makes the film compelling is Sona’s passion and fire. She will not shut up. The film shows her as multi layered and honest. Problematic and outspoken, she doesn’t know how to keep quiet even to her own detriment. After asking other women in the Indian music industry to support her and receiving no replies, she delivers one of her best lines. “ I don’t blame them, they are probably just navigating life as it is… Let me not lie. I blame them.”
Filmmaker Deppti Gupta and Sona don’t shy away from showing the negatives of her political voice and the tense conversations between Sona and her husband over how she should react to Twitter trolls feel honest and painful.
There’s also wonderful sequences of Sona at work, creating and performing music. Watching her recreate powerful images within her music videos to honour the stories they tell is very moving, as is her trip to a religious temple where she is not allowed to sing as she is a woman.
Whilst so much of the film focusses on Sona’s specific journey and her journey as an Indian woman fighting patriarchal traditions, echoes of the story will ring universal no matter what country or industry you’re in. Gupta has said that the film “is not relying on the protagonist only … the narrative goes forward with her, but it’s about all of us. The film is about all of us, everywhere.” As a viewer, I found this to be completely true.
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