October 31, 1984, was the fateful day when India’s former PM Indira Gandhi was killed by her own bodyguards Beant Singh and Satwant Singh. The incident had lead to a great mayhem as anti-Shikh riots broke out in the national Capital. Around 2,700 sikhs were killed according to official data, but unofficial data had another story to tell. It is believed that the death toll was more than three times of the official data.
Directed by Shivaji Lotan Patil, ‘31st October’ narrates the struggle for survival of a family during the anti-Sikh riot unleashed after the assassination of Indira Gandhi. Devinder Singh (Vir Das) and his wife Tejinder Kaur (Soha Ali Khan) lives in Tilak Nagar in West Delhi with their three children. They are the kind of people who try to help everyone, especially Devinder who believes that if he helps someone today he might get help in return later. On October 31 their life starts like any other day of the year. Devinder goes to drop their kids to school bus and after that leaves for his job at electricity office. And Tejinder leaves for the market with her friend. When the All India Radio confirms the attack on PM, some congress leaders are shown delivering provoking speeches. You can easily recognize the look-alikes of HKL Bhagat, Sajjan Kumar and Jagdish Tytler.
After that hell breaks loose and the city turns into a madhouse. It shows how the common people are turned into rioters. The film also depicts the other side of the anti-Shikh riots in which Hindus are shown helping the Sikhs without thinking of the danger hovering over their own family.
Keeping the name of the movie and the history related to it in mind, one would have great expectations from it as no movie had yet been made about anti-Sikh riots. But ‘31st October’ is a major letdown. Everything had loopholes: casting, story, editing and acting. It seemed as if personal experiences of different people had been filmed and put together without proper editing. A proper narrative was missing throughout the movie. The storyline is hollow and sloppy. The dialogues are just unbearable.
Vir Das has tried hard to come out of his comic character persona but in vain. He was flat with just a single emotion on his face. Somehow, Soha Ali Khan has managed to deliver an average performance. But the supporting characters have dragged the movie further down. Their collective performance is inconsistence and expressionless. Deepraj Rana, Vineet Sharma and Lakhwinder who had portrayed the role of Devinder’s friends and Nagesh Bhosale as a policeman are the ones who have done justice to their characters. At some points the even the dialogues were not well synchronized with the lip movements. A badly treated story, which could have been turned into a better homage to the Sikhs, died on the very night of its relese. It was supposed to be a tribute according to producer Harry Sachdeva, but sadly it is not.