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Santosh (2024) — Movie Review

Sandhya Suri's captivating police drama "Santosh" revolves around a murder case in a small Dalit community in northern India, which serves as a disturbing mirror to a complex and corrupt justice system. An older, experienced police officer, Sunita Rajwar, teams up with a rookie constable, Shahana Goswami, to investigate the murder of a teenage girl, revealing the harsh truth of working in criminal cases-everyone, from the victim’s family to the detectives, performs a role on this judicial stage.

The story unfolds when Devika, a local teenager, is found dead in a well, her bloated body polluting the community’s water supply and sparking widespread criticism of the local police force. Already tainted by accusations of corruption and discrimination against the Dalit people – the so-called "lower caste" in India, the officers are compelled to solve the case in order to save face. To tackle this, they bring in Rajwar, a notorious inspector known for her hard-nosed approach, and team her up with Goswami, a rookie who became a police officer through a government scheme for widows of deceased officers.

The film presents the dire consequences of their roles, especially for Goswami’s character who, despite entering the job seemingly with good intentions, is ensnared by the corruption in the system. The heart of "Santosh" beats loudly within the dynamic of these two female officers, a juxtaposition of innocence and experience, their complex roles elucidated by the powerful performances from Rajwar and Goswami.

Santosh (2024) — Movie Review

As the investigation unfolds, Goswami's character transforms significantly. What began as an aspiring officer with a naive trust in the justice system, evolves into a compromised figure who will bend her morals, much like her experienced partner, driven by an urgent need to solve the murder case.

A new direction surfaces in the film when the officers find a significant lead-a text message on Devika's phone. Every conventional detective trope takes a backseat as the narrative races forward, matched by the ever-increasing intensity and claustrophobic camera arrangements. Suri's magisterial direction, dark atmospherics, and pulsating score morph the film into an edgy nail-biter.

"Santosh" goes beyond a riveting drama with its sharp screenplay. Through intimate narrative and skillful dialogue, Suri exposes the political reality in India, weaving in societal discrimination and workplace corruption that push the two women into an unwilling alliance.