The great river Chambal is known more the dreaded bandits that infest the ravines on her banks than its crocodiles. But the cops that are over zealous in their duty to wipe out these Robin Hood type bandits are no heroes either. Sonchiraiya means 'golden sparrow' and it takes us to 1975 and tells us how Daku Man Singh died ('daku' means 'dacoit' or bandit).
Manoj Bajpai makes the role of Man Singh his own. He's simply brilliant as the head of the gang, at once the dreaded dacoit (In real life the man was responsible for 1,112 robberies, 185 murders including 32 cops) at once the benevolent savior of the poor (there is a temple made to him in a village because he robbed the rich and gave to the poor, there are folk songs of his Robin Hood ways). In this movie Man Singh is shown plagued by a sin and the philosophical bent of the character makes for a very cowboy Western style film.
Lakhna is played by Sushant Singh Rajput and he is a very good right hand man to the gang leader. But equally good is Ranveer Shorey who plays Vakil Singh, Man Singh's left hand man, loyalist and becomes leader when Man Singh meets his fate during a robbery where they are ambushed. The gang on the run from the cops led by the mean and cunning Virender Singh Gujjar (played brilliantly by Ashutosh Rana). The gang comes across a woman and an injured child running away from atrocities and when she says that she too belongs to the same caste as the bandits, they offer protection and promise to deliver her to a hospital. But a clash of philosophies splits Lakhna and Vakil and Lakhna ends up with two others saving the woman.
With Lakhna and the two deemed deserters, they now have the gang chasing them as well as the cops and the woman's family. The chase has many gunfights, and running across the unforgiving dusty ravines of the Chambal. The film is spectacular and tells a grand tale of the life of the dacoits, considered to be heroes to those they helped. There are as many chuckles as there are gratuitous scenes of bullets puncturing bodies. The story includes a notorious female bandit named Phoolan Devi (named Phuliya in the movie), and how she helps Lakhna face the people chasing him.
The film is violent, but it's a story well told about bandits and cops and their life philosophies and caste and how women get caught in the crossfire. The film keeps you glued by its brutal honesty and you realise Abhishek Chaubey has hit gold once more after Udta Punjab.
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