Film: “31st October”; Director: Shivaji Lotan Patil; Cast: Soha Ali Khan, Vir Das, Lakhwinder Lakha, Deepaj Rana, Vineet Sharma, Nagesh Bhonsle, Daya Shankar, Maneet Vaghadia; Rating: **1/2
This film pays tribute to the Sikhs killed after the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi on October 31, 1984 and those Hindus who helped some Sikhs survive the aftermath of the fanatics’ wrath.
With over 8,000 Sikhs reported killed after the assassination, this film is an indirect plea to prosecute those responsible for the mass killings.
The dramatized narrative, based on a true story of a family who experienced the nightmare, follows the lives of Davinder Singh (Vir Das) and his family which consist of his wife and three children, on that fateful day.
Narrated in a linear format, the screenplay is simple and effective with hourly updates, beginning from 6.30 am right till the assassination, giving glimpses of the various localities, inhabited by Sikhs in Delhi. How the tension and horror unfurls, forms the crux of the tale.
With a beard and a turban, actor Vir as the do-gooder, Delhi Electric Supply Undertaking employee with a low blood-pressure problem is sincere in his portrayal of Davinder Singh. But at times, his sincerity sticks out as an over-the-top act.
Actress Soha Ali Khan as Davinder’s wife Tejinder looks natural, performs ably and matches Vir in her histrionics. But she fails to be consistent in her accent.
Lakhwinder Lakha, Deepaj Rana and Vineet Sharma as their family friends – Yogesh, Pal and Tilak seem genuine and honest. Nagesh Bhonsle as Inspector Dahiya in a two scene role is impressive.
The script written by Producer Harry Sachdeva is blatantly straightforward and basic. It effectively shows the organised massacre along with plight and helplessness of the Sikhs. And it is astutely mounted with moderate production values.
On the technical front, Nandita Pandey’s costumes, Harish Kumara’s art direction with some, old film posters, radio and old television sets, replicate the period to the hilt. The sepia tone frames add to the charm. But the visuals begin on a shaky note. Ramani Ranjan Das’ un-steady camera work is disconcerting, but nevertheless captures the setting and the tragedy with all sincerity.
The background score and the songs are soulfully rendered and add to the pathos of the narrative.
Overall, the film despite its earnestness, leaves much to be desired but for the makers it sure is a cathartic experience — and the last scene says it all.
By Troy Ribeiro