31st October movie cast: Soha Ali Khan, Vir Das, Vineet Sharma, Deepraj Rana
31st October movie director: Shivaji Lotan Patil
The assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi on that fateful 1984 October day had led to three days of shocking mayhem in the national capital, where armed mobs rampaged through many parts of Delhi, burning and killing Sikhs, and pillaging their establishments.
It was, not to put too fine a point on it, a pogrom. The smell of burnt flesh and rubber was everywhere: the news of the assassination was finally confirmed by the BBC, leading to a bloody aftermath. Almost everywhere you turned, there was a vehicle or a body in flames.
The film opens on that day, showing a Sikh family– Davinder (Vir Das) and Tajinder (Soha Ali Khan) and their children, two boys and a babe in arms—going about their usual routine. Davinder walks the little boys to the school bus and goes off to work at the local electricity office (DESU); Tajinder heads to the nearby market.
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And then as word starts to trickle out about Mrs Gandhi’s death, and the identity of her killers, some Congress leaders (you can quite easily spot look-alikes of HKL Bhagat and Jagdish Tytler) are shown delivering inciting speeches and aiming the mob towards the Sikh community, and the brutal killings begin, which continue unabated in the capital’s far-flung resettlement colonies over nearly three days and nights.
There has been almost nothing in mainstream Bollywood about those dark days. 31st October had the chance to re-construct that ghastly day and show just how an event can spiral out of control, and just how easily hatred can be fanned and spread when the law and order machinery has been told to look the other way. But the film has nothing – neither narrative nor engaging characters—on offer.
Das is hopelessly miscast. The others fare no better. Khan at least tries hard to look the part, but cannot rise above the sheer ineptness of this enterprise, which neither tells nor shows us anything we do not know.