31st October Hindi Movie Review
Everyone is nice. Everyone is bhaisaab, behen and even the poorest of neighborhoods are picture perfect. And they turn into burning boroughs of hatred. There's only one passing reference to Operation Bluestar, something that Sikhs hated. The Indian Army, invaded the Golden Temple where Sikh extremists had holed up with AK-47s and rocket launchers and all kinds of weapons, and every terrorist was killed and their demand for a nation of Khalistan was dissolved. There's no mention of the Army stepping into the temple barefoot (to maintain the sanctity of the temple), no mention of the armed terrorists, only a dramatised version of the Sikh bodyguards killing the Prime Minister (and then getting shot themselves).
This was a chance to explain the motivation of the guards to kill someone they were supposed to be guarding, but no. The film quickly jumps into what followed: people listening (endlessly to radio broadcasts) and sudden riots. This was a chance also to show how political parties jumped into a situation and incited the riots. But no, just one dialog: you need to avenge the death...
Seriously? Is that all it took?
But we are back to Devinder pra-ji (Vir Das in a role so unconvincing, you want to beg him to stick to comedy) whose wife (Soha Ali Khan in a ghastly dubbed voice) has relatives who seem to die every time she calls to check on them! If that was so badly done you would have been shook! But she calls, and the relatives fall prey to rioters. It is so terribly done, you want to tell her to stop calling people.
Vir Das and wife have two boys and a baby girl. They say rightly that the director needs to be genius to be able to work with children and animals. In this case the two kids have learnt the lines by rote and the scenes are very stilted. Even good actors like Deepraj Rana and Vineet Sharma look helpless in front of a terrible script. And you wonder why they had to choose a very Marathi actor (Nagesh Bhonsle, usually very good) trying really hard to sound Haryanvi.
The fires on the riot affected streets seem very organised and carefully placed on the side. When Soha is pushed out of the bus that is set on fire, she takes forever to run away from the bus, turning around to look at it. When there are rioters on streets, no one will ask their sister and her family to leave their home and drive across the city to come to where you have found shelter! The whole premise seems to be too flimsy, and does not do justice to such a horrendous part of our recent history. Movies like Amu (directed by Shonali Bose, and starring Konkona Sen Sharma in 2005) have handled this subject with so much more sensitivity and manage to make the events shocking even to those too young to remember. The final nail in the coffin is watching Vir Das (who could not be more than 30 years old in the film) in a full white beard, old man's shakes and all and Soha Ali Khan with white powder in her hair and an Arthritic knee tell us that justice will never be given to the victims... Such a waste of a great opportunity.
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