A dark chapter
A few years back, 1984 became the favorite topic of Punjabi film makers and few films were made on the subject, but most of the films made on this sensitive chapter of Indian history tried to exploit the emotions instead of dealing with the facts. Though, it doesn’t go deep into the darkest layers of human psychology, which provoked such deadly massacre against Sikhs, but 31st October stands out to project few core sentiments by remaining close to real life incidents. It is not a flawless film; even then it shows the paradoxical conflict between humanity and brutality.
The film unfolds with the Davinder (Veer Das) preparing to start his day along with his two young sons and wife Tajinder (Soha Ali Khan). At the same time Satwant and Beant the bodyguards of ex-Prime Minister Indira Gandhi are all set to kill her to avenge the operation blue star. As soon as Davinder, after dropping his sons to school, reaches his office and Tejinder after settling down her tiny daughter in cradle leaves for market, Indira is being shot at point zero by her own bodyguards.
The news spreads like a fire in the jungle, through radio sets from barber shops to the corridors of power houses. Soon look alike of Jagdish Tytler and HKL Bhagat are seen enticing mobs to evict the ‘traitors’ for killing the ‘mother of nation’. Within spur of the moment, Delhi turns into a battleground. Gurdwaras ablaze, shops looted and people with turbans are killed mercilessly in broad daylight, police turn blind and remains unmoved.
Stuck in between the narrow lanes of Tilak Nagar, a mini-Punjab in Delhi, a family of Devinder struggles to save their life. When all hopes drown in the dark ocean of uncertainty, a silver lining comes forth. Hindu friends Pal (Deep Raj Rana), Tilak (Vineet Sharma) and Yogesh of Tajinder’s brother comes all the way from the other end of burning Delhi, risking their lives to save the family of a Sikh. How they rescue the family and what happens to the other family members on sidelines unfolds through an emotionally intense drama.
A story written by Harry Sachdeva, Basant Kashyap and Amit Tuli is a lot predictable and lacks pace. Their dialogues are average, and accent of lead pair makes them tacky. Director Shivaji Patil Lotan has tried his best to keep the things together, but the story gets into grip only during the last fifteen minutes. He creates the right ambience and shows us the Delhi in 1984, where the walls are painted with the slogans ‘Hum Do Hamare Do’. The scene, in which dodging Gurjit lands into a drunkard’s room, takes it to one step further. The sequence where Nagesh Bhonsle as police inspector grills the rescuing team raises the tension.
Veer Das and Soha Ali Khan, both are a complete miscast for such intense characters. Veer Das could not express the trauma and struggles to utter Punjabi words correctly. Soha tries to be an authentic Punjaban, but at places she slips out of the character. Daya Shankar Pandey, Deep Raj Rana and Vineet Sharma deliver perfectly. Nagesh Bhonsle depicts the crooked face of police with intensity. Gurjeet’s awkward makeup makes him look gross. His body language and expression does not match with his dialogues.
31st October can be watched for its honest attempt and go through the real-life incidents faced by a family. The last dialogue of Soha summarizes the whole story, ‘’32 saalon mein na Insaaf mila hai, na milega!’
Two stars for remaining true to the subject.
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