Shut Up Sona is a shocking watch. As we follow Sona on tour, she regularly packs out venues of over 200,000 fans, on one side we see her strong, captivating performances and on the other, we’re shown the everyday sexism and inequality she faces. These include her being accused of dressing inappropriately because she performs in a red dress, offending religious leaders by her choice of styling, and the constant trolling she gets on her social media platforms, where she has over 2million followers. But despite the battles she faces for being a woman who’s not afraid to speak out, she never gives up and uses per platforms to share her beliefs. She explains: “A lot of the content I was seeing coming out of Mumbai lacked the feminine perspective. It’s like women are there for decorative value, as an afterthought. We’re not at the heart of it. In the music industry there’s hardly any feminine perspective, it’s almost as if people forget that a woman can express romance. But if I just went on stage to look pretty and be glamorous it would be such a bland, boring life. The fact that I have this chance to tell a story that can make an impact in such a large way, I feel lucky.”
Opportunity is something she always makes a point of creating herself, as she believes that there still aren’t enough doors opening for women, especially those in music. She said: “At every step, I was reminded that these are opportunities you should not be seeking. This much is enough for you as a woman. But I’ve always felt my opportunities should be as unlimited as any other boy or man. Most of them aren’t even working as hard me, so why should I be happy with this much when I know I can do more?”
One of the turning points in the documentary is when we see Sona sing qawwali in a religious space, where no woman has ever been allowed to sing in public for over 800 years. It’s a tense and nerve-wracking moment when she asks permission to do so, but it reinforces to us just what an incredible, brave, role model and inspiration Sona Mohapatra is, and no doubt after watching her documentary, more women will feel inspired to break away from any molds they’ve been pushed into.
Watch Shut Up Sona this weekend, screening as part of the Bagri Foundation London Indian Film Festival at the BFI in London, Sat 19th September, 2020.