Drishyam Films founder Manish Mundra turns director with Siya, a film based on the seemingly unending reports of rapes from Uttar Pradesh.

The gender dynamic is already skewed against 17-year-old Siya (Pooja Pandey) before she is brutalised by the brother of the local politician Arunoday (Rohit Pathak). Forced to play second fiddle to her younger brother, Siya dreams of escaping to Delhi for work and a better life.

Siya is raped at the same time that lawyer and neighbour Mahender (Vineet Kumar Singh) is visiting the village from Delhi. Mahender tries to ensure a better deal for Siya, but finds that there are vast limits to his ability to get past Arunoday’s clout.

There are few new revelations in the screenplay, written by Mundra, Haider Rizvi and Samah. We know all too well the deceptively bucolic rural setting that barely conceals deep-seated caste divisions. The heart justifiably skips a beat when Siya steps out of her modest home. As for the fate of the rapists – once again, no surprises here.

Mundra and his crew bring to a painfully familiar idea both a welcome sobriety and ample filmmaking chops. Although Siya falls short in its attempt to create a stirring chronicle of justice against the odds, the narrative by on the strength of competent filmmaking.

The clinical manner in which Siya is handled after her rape is all the more impactful because it is presented plainly, without any needless flourishes. The grim inevitability to Siya’s quest survives the scripting contrivances in the later portions. Cinematographers Rafey Mahmood and Subhransu Kumar Das reveal the pretty and yet drab countryside, desaturated of colour and equity.

The film spins on two strong performances. Pooja Pandey does a solid job of portraying Siya’s plight. The always-dependable Vineet Kumar Singh is excellent as a lower-caste lawyer, even though the film underutilises Mahender to its peril.

Siya (2022).