It says a great deal for the state of our nation that a film like Shorgul runs into trouble simply because it is set in a town that witnesses communal killings, and which dares to create characters with a resemblance to real-life ones.
It is also the kind of film that sadly requires political intervention for it to release.
The film’s small UP town stands in, clearly, for Muzzafarnagar, which was the site of some of India’s worst rioting in 2013. It’s interesting to connect the dots between the reel and real characters: What degrees of separation are visible between Sangeet Som and Ranjeet Om, and Azam Khan and Alim Khan? But the threat of bans and so on turns the filmmakers and the film toothless.
There’s potential to begin with. A luckless Hindu-Muslim romance. Weapons changing hands. Leaders readying to grab power at any cost. A ‘ghar-waapsi’ situation. We even hear people mention such incendiary words as ‘gau mata’, so loaded that just their utterance can cause a fatal conflagration.
But despite all this, and the fact that the film touches upon how tenuous life can be, Shorgul is reduced to a clichéd melodrama with its bloody clashes between the sword-wielding ‘Musalmaans’ and ‘trishul-dhaari’ Hindus.
Zainab (Suha Gezen) is betrothed to Salim (Hiten Tejwani), but Rahgu’s (Anirudh Dave) feelings for her become a problem. Gezen is completely over the top, coming off as a soppy ’60s heroine: her saccharine-laden track drowning an excellent turn by Ashutosh Rana, who plays Raghu’s father, and a pacifist whose chief function is to show up the dangerous opportunism of both Hindu (Jimmy Shergill) and Muslim (Narendra Jha) leaders.
Which is a pity because this is the time to be speaking up against political satraps who create rifts between already divided communities. A couple of documentaries on the Muzaffarnagar riots (En Dino Muzzafarnagar and Muzaffarnagar Baaki Hai) do this with a great deal more competence, but it is unlikely that they will find a theatrical release. In all the noise, ‘Shorgul’s line – ‘Suresh marey ya Salim ise koi farak nahin padta’ – becomes more a populist stab rather than a powerful weapon.
Shorgul cast: Jimmy Shergill, Ashutosh Rana, Hiten Tejwani, Eijaz Khan, Suha Gezen, Anirudh Dave, Narendra Jha
Director: Jitendra Tiwari