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Sunday, November 1, 2015

Woman of the Month: Sooni Dalal

Sooni Dalal from Indian Summers
I've been sitting on my review for Indian Summers for months now – I keep meaning to finish it, but other projects are forever cropping up and demanding my attention. But as it's currently airing on American television, I'll commit to completing it within the month - and as a reminder to myself, I've decided to make one of its many compelling female characters my choice for Woman of the Month.
What makes Sooni Dalal stand out is that she's the light in a story that's very much told in shades of grey. No one is wholly good or bad, and every character exists on a wide spectrum of virtuous to corrupt behaviour. The cruel are capable of great kindness, and the well-meaning can make horrendous mistakes.
Yet Sooni is someone the audience can truly trust, simply because she's the only character who isn't lying about who she is or what she wants. With the passion and idealism of youth, she's staunchly opposed to the rule of the British Raj and is highly critical of her older brother Aafrin's job as a clerk to the Private Secretary to the Viceroy of India. In many ways she operates as his shoulder-angel – if such angels were judgmental and temperamental little sisters.
She is often in over her head when it comes to her political beliefs (a stint in a jail call after attending a rally shows her the ugly side of civil disobedience), but no one can doubt the sincerity of her conviction. Yet at the same time she sits at a fascinating intersection of gender and politics, for though she fights for Indian independence, her father is quick to point out that the education with which she fights it is the result of British colonization.
She's outspoken and brash, and incidentally, quite lovely as well. But for now at least any romantic entanglements play no part in her story arc, and by the end of the show's first season she's been placed in a position (narratively speaking) that may well influence the course of her country's history.

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