Soni, the criminally under-watched Netflix movie begins with a young woman speedily cycling through deserted roads in what seems like an hour deep into the night. On its own this is a generic image, but put in a man, also on a bicycle that is moving at an equally fast speed, and with his leering whistling sounds for company, the scene transforms. The woman is stone faced, not doing much to show what she is feeling. The leering continues all the way till she stops and seems to be walking towards her destination. The man now on his feet and with better proximity to the woman is even bolder with his intentions. The woman turns at last, she confronts him, and when the man puts his hand on her, she tackles him down, her pent up anger all out in the open.
It is soon discovered that the woman is a cop on undercover night duty, and she has a history of ‘anger issues’, often getting reprimanded for being unable to keep it under control. The only person or two persons who seem to understand her are her boss, an IPS officer and her kindly landlord, both women and both older than she is. With these two women, Soni is a far cry from the stone-faced woman on the bicycle. Okay, she may not be that far off. With the landlord, Soni lets herself be indulged by a mother figure. With the boss, she lets herself be reprimanded in a gentle elder-sisterly way. But, when she is out in a restaurant with the same boss, and when waiting outside the ‘ladies’ washroom in the same restaurant, she comes across a bunch of well connected youngsters using the washroom for getting high, she at first gently but firmly asks them to get out. This has no effect on the men who soon shockingly, but not at all surprisingly, reduce her to a woman who can be leered at, and her fierceness a turn on for them. Soni’s anger was my anger. It would be the anger of any self-respecting woman who has been reduced to a ‘woman’ in the most unexpected of situations. And so, when she does what she does, it doesn’t feel (only) wrong. But, Soni’s actions come with repercussions. She is reprimanded and punished for letting her anger “get the better of her”. She is for the second time, transferred to the Police control room, where she will now often respond to phone calls from loafing men who only want to chat up their fantasy policewomen.
I know making an argument about Soni being called out on her anger just because she was a woman is not right. Soni is a police officer. And maybe, even a man in the same position with similar responses would be reprimanded and punished for letting his anger get the better of him. But traditionally, anger is an emotion more associated with men than women. Hence, a woman’s anger is hard to understand no matter how valid the anger itself is. And with women, it is always meant to be controlled, much like in Soni’s case. With men occupying a women’s washroom, Soni’s ideal behaviour should be to ignore their uncharitable comments and complain to her boss who would probably follow some protocol to get the high men out of a damned women’s washroom! Soni’s anger thus needs to be controlled. It needs to be suppressed. It cannot come out when drunk men break rules simply because they can and they believe no one will question them. Soni’s anger should be smothered when men harass her and follow her in a manner that would make any woman’s skin crawl. Soni’s anger will always be associated with her being a female. Unlike men who can be quick to claim it and its repercussions too, Soni’s anger will stand out especially when its recipients are men, and because if she has to co-exist and maintain her individuality, her anger has no place in this scheme of things.
We have always celebrated “angry young men” but will we ever celebrate our “angry young women”?
Disclaimer: This article has not been written by Film Companion’s editorial team.