Siya movie review Despite its powerful premise

From the first frame of the film, when the 17-year-old Siya goes to the fields to relieve herself in the dead of night, you feel a sense of creeping dread. You want her to get back to the safety of her house, dimly visible behind her, because who knows what monster will leap out of the darkness? We hold our breaths till the camera sees her safely inside, but as soon as she is out again, the tension ratchets up. How will she, and the countless other Siyas, who live under constant threat of physical and mental violence held out by slavering predators, stay safe?

Siya movie review Despite its powerful premise film falls short

And then, inevitably, Siya (Pooja Pandey) goes missing. In his debut feature, Manish Mundra, who has produced a clutch of terrific indies, including ‘Aankhon Dekhi’, ‘Masaan’ and ‘Newton’, stays clear of an exploitative gaze as the plot unravels. We see how the powerless are victimised over and over again, as Siya, rescued after days of being savaged by local goons, is led to the police station, followed by the medical examination, and her first foray into the justice system. Instead of being on her side, everything is stacked against her, and her family, and her lawyer (Vineet Kumar Singh) find themselves at their wit’s end.

But after a while, it peters out. As the titular Siya (another name for Sita), Pandey turns in an impactful performance. Singh, as her supportive but hapless lawyer, is left to flounder. And as the plot comes up to its final twist, it leaves Siya, and us, clutching at straws.

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