Film Review: ‘31st October’ Captures Fear, Grief & Pain from 1984
As is the ritual these days , films must spend some time under the extensive care of Mr Nihalani and team, get the required words muted and scenes cut and only then are they deemed fit to step into a theatre near us.
31st October obediently followed the beaten track and is finally out. Frankly, this week can best be described as the lull at the box office before the whirlwind release of Ae Dil Hai Mushkil and Shivaay slated for Diwali. But 31st October is still relevant, especially in terms of the subject it deals with.
Directed by National award winner Shivaji Lotan Patil, it traces the events of 31 October 1984, when the then PM Indira Gandhi was gunned down by her own Sikh bodyguards and the violence and senseless killings following it that soon spiralled out of control.
Most of what we see in the film is something we already know about Indira Gandhi’s murder that sparked four days of riots and systematic genocide of the Sikhs.
The inconvenient truth that some people would like to gloss over, one being the complicity of the government and state machinery in the barbaric killings (Congress leaders like Sajjan Kumar and Jagdish Tytler accused of inciting the mobs).
The other was the police inaction while nearly 8,000 Sikhs were brutally killed, burnt alive, their women raped and property looted – have been weaved into the story commendably by Harry Sachdeva (Writer and Producer of the film) sans melodrama or exaggeration.
The tone of the narrative thickly hints at something ominous, as we follow Davinder Singh and his devoted wife Tajinder going about their daily chores, blissfully unaware of the tragedy that awaits them.
It was an era when news was hard to come by – crowding around a radio or a singular TV set to make sense of the madness around was the only option available.
It is through their story of fear, grief and pain, as they get embroiled in the violence, that we understand the extent of devastation and rioting as Sikhs get attacked by the very people they had known and lived with for years.
The taut 102-minute narrative could have been a far better film than it ends up being and the reason for that are some questionable casting choices.
As a simple, good-natured man and his devoted wife Vir Das and Soha Ali Khan might “look” the part, but their performance lacked the gravitas and empathy that the script demanded. It is a pity since the ensemble cast of Deepraj Rana, Vineet Sharma, Lakhwinder Lakha and Nagesh Bhonsle did try to give it their best.
31st October gets 3 Quints out of 5 and despite its little flaws, it still is a film that deserves to be seen.
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