31st October Movie Review: It Lacks Emotional Depth
A still from the film.
Cast: Soha Ali Khan, Vir Das
Director: Shivaji Lotan Patil
The year 1984 still remains one of the darkest periods in modern Indian history. And majority of the chronicles of the 1984 Sikh massacre focused on Delhi and Punjab – as these were the two crucial places that bore the brunt of the bloodshed. After 32 years of Sikh genocide, director Shivaji Lotan Patil uses 31st October to show how the assassination of India’s Prime Minister Indira Gandhi triggered mass killing.
For the uninitiated, in June 1984 Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had ordered a military attack on Golden Temple - the most important religious center for the Sikhs in Amritsar, Punjab. The Operation Blue Star, Indian military operation attack had slayed thousands of commoners. On October 31, 1984, Mrs Gandhi’s Sikh bodyguards Beant Singh and Satwant Singh opened fire at her.
The fact that the director Patil deals with a subject that the victims and witnesses watched with utmost revulsion and horror as the mobs killed Sikh men, sexually assaulted Sikh women and burned down their homes, the treatment had to be more mature.
The film largely revolves around a distressed Sikh couple, played by Vir Das (Davinder Singh) and Soha Ali Khan (Tejinder Kaur). Much like an ordinary, middle-class Sikh couple of West Delhi, both Davinder and Tejinder are happy living a content life with their three kids. While Tejinder plays a well-behaved wife, Davinder is respected for his benevolent nature. Things are absolutely normal until Beant Singh and Satwant Singh kill Mrs Gandhi.
What follows next is what most of us are aware of – young Hindu thugs, to avenge PM’s killing, drag Sikh men out of their homes and shops, shoot them and set their families aflame. Since no Bollywood project has made a film which is inspired by true series of events during a period of turmoil in Delhi, Patil had an opportunity to turn this film into a project that could be remembered for generations.
While the film manages to capture the unabated violence convincingly, and the efforts that stranded Sikh families to save their lives and a few Hindu families extending help, the impact doesn’t come across too strongly. So you might find the sequences of violence and barbarity leaving you a bit disturbed, but it gets forgotten with the next sequence that follows.
As far as acting is concerned, Soha Ali Khan and Vir Das are average. Both Khan and Das were doing a project that gave them the opportunity to display every ounce and nuance of emotion. They could have easily delivered a range of emotions and proved their mettle. But they fail. Their eyes might swell with tears but it won’t affect you much.
Since the film clearly lacks emotional depth, it might not strike a chord with those who witnessed the horror.