As Indian popstar and activist Sona Mohapatra campaigns against the lack of female artists in her country’s music industry, she receives a comment from a troll that claims the reason for this imbalance is that the lower the pitch, the better the voice – that the ‘shrillness’ of a woman’s sound is simply not good enough. It’s an embodiment of the pushback Sona faces at every point in her career; that she is too loud, too big, takes up too much space. 

Deepti Gupta’s beautifully shot Shut Up Sona follows the artist for three years, as she performs to the masses, sparks shouting matches on the news, receives legal backlash to her videos, and connects with young girls across India. Mixing scenes of Sona on stage with intimate snapshots of her life both travelling and at home, the documentary gives a powerful insight into how refusing to pipe down about what she believes in affects her personal relationships as well as her career trajectory.

The tension is palpable between Sona and her husband as he tells her to remember that she is an entertainer first – not an activist – and an encounter with a painfully rude journalist is rage-inducing. Every inch of Sona’s art is rooted in radical thought; her songs and lyrics often draw on alternative interpretations of Indian history and the work of honoured poets, which only serves to increase the ire towards her from those who are deeply uncomfortable with her freedom of expression.

Shut Up Sona matches a still-urgent story with stunning visual flair, and a clear sense of trust between director and subject. It’s easy to forget that social progress doesn’t happen at the same pace worldwide, and seeing India through such a hyper-patriarchal lens is a reminder of just how far feminism has yet to reach.



CAST: Sona Mohapatra, Ram Sampath

DIRECTOR: Deepti Gupta

SYNOPSIS: A documentary following feminist popstar Sona Mohapatra over three years of battling misogyny in the Indian music industry.