'31st October' full movie review: Clarity and poignancy go for a toss
From the path breaking MS Sathyu’s ‘Garam Hawa’ to more recent films like ‘Black Friday’, ‘Mumbai Meri Jaan’, ‘Parzania’, ‘Kai Po Che’, ‘Firaaq’ and in league of its own ‘Maachis’ have dealt with riots and laity with clarity and poignancy. Not this time though.
It happened one frenzied night and a shocked nation has been a mute witness. Tragedy lurked in every corner and the life of an entire community known for its patriotic fervour was called to testify its patriotic credentials on the streets of a city on fire. The illusory self-certification of being a peace-loving nation stood battered. Neighbourhoods became burial grounds. Friends became anti-national all in a moment.
The incidents that swept Delhi in the aftermath of the assassination of Indira Gandhi by her security staff even as she was walking for an interview with Peter Ustinov is all too well known. The collective that we are have tried hard to push it under the carpet. Every once in a way, it raises its ugly head. Once every five years someone takes the stick to beat up an old feud. The incident, however, is a dark scar on the credentials of a nation that wears secularism and tolerance on its sleeve.
Pretensions have never been more hypocritical. The tragedy is all too well known to mention. Why even, the Prince-in-Waiting said: there are always tremors when a great tree falls! We learn from history that hatred backed by power leads but to catastrophe.
Devender Singh (Vir Das) and Tejinder Kaur (Soha Ali Khan) live in their small little world with their three children, including the two school going boys who ask why they should be subject to ridicule for their long hair in school. Outside everything is hunky-dory. Why even that morning everything is fine. The neighbourhood wakes to camaraderie and warmth.
But even as news spreads that the Prime Minister has been assassinated by two members of a community from her own security staff, people start taking positions. The national certifiers get to the overkill position and begin to question the credentials of a community that has always been known for its patriotic fervour and contribution to the nation. The “they” vs “We” battle begins and everyone is called upon to go through the agnipareeksha of patriotism and allegiance to the nation.
Even as Davinder is at work (electricity department), his world and faith come crumbling down. While his children return early from school, his wife is caught and is an eyewitness to the frenzied mob fury that takes over Delhi and (Tilaknagar where they live). From here, we are witness to how groups with swords and sticks attack Sikhs and how the victims can do no more than suffer without resistance.
This is familiar territory for our cinema. From the path breaking MS Sathyu’s ‘Garam Hawa’ to more recent films like ‘Black Friday’, ‘Mumbai Meri Jaan’, ‘Parzania’, ‘Kai Po Che’, ‘Firaaq’ and in league of its own ‘Maachis’ have dealt with riots and laity with clarity and poignancy. Not this time though.
The filmmaker Shivaji Lotan Patil is in a royal mess with his structure. He simply fails to deliver the punch. In fact, the discerning viewer is waiting for the riots to happen! He meanders to establish the premise and having done so at a leisurely pace he tends to repeat incidents to push the point that lawlessness with the support of the political bigwigs (remember HKL Bhagat, Fotedar, Tytler……).How three friends Pal (Deepraj Rana), Tilak (Vineet Sharma) and Yogesh (Lakha Lakhwinder Singh) save the family from the madness and frenzy, defy the police including the corrupt Inspector Dahiya (Nagesh Bhosle) and at what cost is what the script is all about.
Cast : Soha Ali Khan, Vir Das, Lakhwinder Singh and Pritam Kagne
Direction : Shivaji Lotan Patil
Genre : Drama
Good : Idea
Bad : Execution