Movie: 31 October
Director: Shivaji Lotan Patil.
Cast: Soha Ali Khan and Vir Das
Verdict: Focusses on a controversial subject but fails in bringing out the facts and the crucial moments of the anti-Sikh Riots in 1984
When a controversial subject such as the 1984 anti-Sikh riots is being portrayed, the viewers have a right to expect the events that happened (including how) during the fateful week Indira Gandhi was assassinated. Instead, what we get to see is mobs roaming around with weapons, going on a killing spree.
A part of the first half and the entire second half of 31st October is solely dedicated to these mobs and the terror they had unleashed. Were these mobs hardened criminals earlier who were freed from prisons to engage in this pogrom? Who distributed the weapons to them? And upon whose orders did the police turn a blind eye to all the mayhem that continued for four days after Indira's death? All these questions were conveniently ignored by the director, Shivaji Lotan Patil.
31st October begins on that fateful day in 1984. Davinder Singh (Vir Das), Tajinder Kaur (Soha Ali Khan) along with their two kids and a toddler are a happy family. Davinder is a good-natured man who helps everyone in need. That day, as news break that Indira Gandhi was shot by her Sikh bodyguards, Davinder's colleagues turn hostile and he is forced to go home early. As the day progresses, we see rising incidents of violence. Shops are ransacked and burnt, Sikhs beaten. Things get worse during the night. Anyone sporting a turban is murdered, including kids. Women too are not spared.
The second half gets dragged quite a bit.
In the end, Davinder's Hindu friends save him and his family from the carnage, by transporting them to a 'safe place' in a car. The climax shows a scene fast-forwarded 30 years, when an old Tajinder tears up the photographs of the fateful night kept as a memory by Davinder, saying she doesn't expect justice to be done anytime soon.
The songs serve little purpose other than increasing the runtime. Background score too does not rise to the occasion.
The only silver lining - 31st October has some tense and gripping moments. And before the end credits roll, the viewers are shown statistics on the number of Sikhs who died, and the multitude who left India to other countries, fearing their safety. It also reminds us that even after 32 years, no arrests or action has been taken on the perpetrators of this tragedy. All in all, 31st October could have been better had it shown something we didn't know.