Director: Manish Mundra
Cast: Vineet Kumar Singh, Pooja Pandey
Released in theatres.
Siya is another name for Sita from Ramayana. The protagonist of this film goes by the name of Sita Singh (Pooja Pandey) also called Siya. Siya comes from a remote village in Uttar Pradesh. A local hooligan makes advances toward her which she doesn’t like. That guy eventually along with his punters, kidnaps Siya and they rape her continuously for a few days at a warehouse until the police raid the place and rescue Siya. What follows is a procedural drama that depicts the negligence and complacency of the system, misuse of power, and politics.
Giving away more details will take away the emotional endurance of watching this film so I will refrain from that. Let’s focus on the making. Like most films produced by Drishyam Films, Siya is also an issue-based film that takes a scathing look at society and the system. Siya is a tale of the grit and resilience of a rape victim. But the film does not take the route of poetic justice. Instead, it stays true to what it aspires to tell. Cinema, after all, is a medium of entertainment. You can have the gravest issue as your subject but your film/series has to be entertaining. The word ‘entertaining’, might not be the right word to use in the context of a film based on a rape victim. Engaging or intriguing could be a better choice.
What Delhi Crime achieved in a series form, Siya tries to do in a film and succeeds to a great extent. Both creations are not easy to watch. The founder of Drishyam Films turns director with Siya. Although there’s no particular director’s voice, Mundra follows the written material to the T. In a way, it’s a collective conscience that’s driving this film to address a heinous crime.
Mahender (Vineet Kumar Singh), a lawyer and a friend of Siya’s uncle, tries to help Siya in her fight. He knows the procedure but there’s little he can do because he is not a big lawyer. He somehow manages to earn a living by doing notary work. Siya’s family is too weak and unaware to seek justice for her. The politics of caste, class, power, and gender are dealt with nuances. It is difficult rather impossible to fight a system that is corrupt from top to bottom. The makers focus on showing all of this without trying to sanitize any detail of the crime or the trial.
Pooja Pandey plays Siya with sincerity. She shows the face whose innocence was robbed by trauma. She knows what she wants to do. She is spirited in her revolt but she’s equally shattered when the procedural actually starts. It’s a confident debut by the young actor.
Vineet Kumar Singh is one of those selfless actors who give their best in each part that they play. In an industry such as the Hindi film industry, actors tend to look for bigger parts than what they played in their previous films. Especially, when their performance receives great appreciation. So, it is commendable of Vineet to play a supporting role in Siya after an outstanding performance in Mukkabaaz (2018). That is without a doubt one of the finest performances of all time by any actor.
The film’s writing is its strongest suit. It may appear that the film is moving at a slow pace for many. When people don’t understand what the film is trying to say, they call it a slow film. No film is slow. All of them run at least 24 frames per second. Siya follows the pace of a procedural. That’s how long and slow it takes to seek justice. You’re only lucky if you get justice at all. The world-building is ably done by cinematography, production design, costume design, sound, and background score. Films like this one are made on the edit table. Full marks to the editor; nothing seems stretched.
After watching the film, I heard a couple of senior journos talking about justice. Justice is not served in real life; the makers could have at least served it in the film. I guess they missed the point of the film. The film is trying to address the much harsher reality of misuse of power and a broken system. It takes courage to back films with such narratives. And kudos to the makers for doing that for Siya.