Chambal. Of the harsh ravines and the eponymous river that runs through it. The legend goes that the river carries a curse upon itself – whoever drinks from those dark waters is changed forever, becoming absorbed in the spirit of seeking blood-thirsty revenge. If there’s one place in India where you pay back with two eyes for every eye you take, it’s this.
They also say that the ravines of Chambal must be ‘offered’ children every year – children who will turn ‘baaghis’ (rebels) and will spend the rest of their lives wandering through the jungles and ravines of its ten thousand square kilometres area.
Lakhna was one such child ‘baaghi’. The ‘thakur’ boy grew up listening to the stories of his father’s killing at the hands of his uncle. The year was 1962, and Lakhna was seventeen when he avenged it by killing his uncle and his two sons. And as is the norm with such Avengers, he ran off to the ravines to escape the law. There, he got picked up by the most famous of the ‘thakur’ dacoit gangs – the gang of the legendary Man Singh. Man Singh, a larger than life dacoit with a strict ethical code, took a liking for Lakhna. For the next thirteen years, Lakhna walked the ravines with Man Singh and steadily rose through the ranks to become one of his two most trusted lieutenants – the other being the volatile Vakil Singh.
It was an almost ascetic like life, trudging miles and miles for days to stay clear of the police and the other gangs, and then a short, sharp burst of action involving a loot, kidnapping, or the occasional killing.
The year is 1975 and Lakhna is now thirty. And thirteen years of this tough criminal life has left him a jaded, hardened soul. What’s still keeping him going is his devotion of Man Singh and the strict principles by which the man runs the gang – which makes it all seem like there’s a higher purpose to it.
And then one day something happens that shatters Lakhna’s illusions. Circumstances lead Man Singh, Lakhna and the gang to commit a crime that shakes their belief to the core. They know what they’ve done goes far beyond their usual crimes. And as the famed curse of Chambal goes, the gang must pay for it.
Enter cop Virender Singh Gujjar – who now has a personal grudge to bear with the gang following what transpired. He makes it his mission to annihilate the gang, which is anyways finding it hard to come to terms with the weight of the ‘sin’ on their collective soul.
The gang tries to lie low for a bit. But Man Singh knows that to keep the gang going, you’ve to keep feeding the monster. On a tip-off from a trusted informer, they decide to loot a big wedding. As it turns out, the informer sells them out to the cops and the hapless gang gets ambushed by Gujjar and his team. along with half of the forty-odd members and the rest only somehow manage to escape.
It’s too big a hit for the surviving men to take and it threatens to tear the remaining gang apart. Lakhna is now sure in his belief that the curse is going to consume them all, and the only way out is to surrender to the cops and choose a life in prison. That’s the ‘penance’ they have to pay for their sin, Lakhna argues. Vakil Singh opposes the idea tooth and nail – for according to him, a baaghi’s dharma is not to surrender but to die to fight. As things turn out, Lakhna gets badly outnumbered by Vakil Singh’s supporters, who appointed him the new leader.
Lakhna and two of his trusted aide – Natthi and Khalifa – secretly decide to break off from the gang and surrender, but they know they’ve to do it quietly – for the situation in the gang is just too volatile at this point. Their plan is almost ready. But as luck would have it, it is just then that they run into –
Indu and Sonchidiya. They beg for protection from the gang, with Indu reminding them that the two of them belong to the same caste as that of the most gang members – ‘Thakur’.
Vakil Singh is reluctant to help and argues that there is too much heat from the cops at this moment and they cannot take any more liability. But something about that poor little bleeding girl Sonchidiya makes it impossible for Lakhna to ignore her pleas. He fights with the gang and invokes Man Singh’s principle of always helping a fellow cast-member – and a woman – to force the gang to take them along. The plan is to head to a nearby town where the injured gang members and the bleeding girl can be treated by the gang’s trusted doctor.
However, as it turns out, there is more to Indu and Sonchidiya than meets the eye. And also the startling truth that Indu is on the run from her husband and in-laws, for having killed her father-in-law.
Vakil Singh and the rest are furious. But Lakhna sticks to her side, arguing that she killed the dirty old man only to protect the poor Sonchidiya. He steps forward and defends her from her husband and his men, despite Vakil Singh ’s orders to the contrary. It leads to a wild scuffle and a shootout between the gang, which splits the gang apart.
Lakhna, along with his two trusted men Natthi and Khalifa, manages to get Indu and Sonchidiya to escape from there. But he knows the fight is not over yet. In fact, it’s only started – it’s Chambal after all. He knows they’re coming after him with guns blazing – Indu’s husband, the brutal cop Virender Gujjar, and Vakil Singh and his men.
But eventually, the journey across the ravines would involve the boy from Chambal discovering that there is something far greater, far more satisfying in life than revenge. And it’s called redemption.
Directed by Abhishek Chaubey who has earlier presented ‘Udta Punjab’ and ‘Ishiqiya’, ‘Sonchiriya’ presents a rooted tale set in Chambal.
Producer Ronnie Screwvala who has not only presented blockbusters but also award-winning films is all set to present ‘SonChiriya’. The movie is slated to release on 8th February 2019.