To snore through theatre director and actor Makrand Deshpande’s movie Sona Spa, based on his play of the same name, would be to pay a compliment to the maverick director. After all, Sona Spa is about a rejuvenation centre where insomniac customers can outsource their sleep to so-called sleeping workers.

The conceit of the play and the movie is that if you are having trouble falling asleep, you can hire a Sona Spa employee to catch up on your 8-hour quota on your behalf. It is never explained whether Sona Spa’s customers sleep at all, and what they do with the time they have thus gained.

The sleeping workers are all young and nubile women, for some reason, and all their clients are men. While the women are asleep, they have the ability to enter the dreams of their customers. These dreams are shot and edited in a conveniently linear fashion, and have none of the strangeness of thoughts and images that emanate from the subconscious. In fact, they are visions rather than dreams, and invariably jolt the sleeping workers out of their slumber. Talk about not sleeping on the job.

Deshpande doesn’t explore the cinematic and philosophical possibilities of a person being able to crawl into the psyche of another person. One suspects that he actually meant Sona Spa to be an erotic intrigue, but didn’t have the gumption or the imagination to see the idea through. There’s a hint of a lesbian relationship between two newly recruited sleeping workers (Shruti Vyas and Aahana Kumra), and one of the customers, Choksey (Romi Jaspal), can be described safely as a sleazeball, but the story treatment and resolution remain depressingly conventional. The acting is mostly amateurish, and the production design is low-budget tacky—the spa is quite obviously a suburban hotel in Mumbai. Neither sensual dream nor psychological nightmare, Sona Spa is a one-liner in search of depth and coherence.

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