Bombay Showcase

Shorgul: All sound and fury

Creditable:The film bluntly takes on real-life references with slightly modified names  

Eijaz Khan’s Mustaqeem is one of those characters in this film on Hindu-Muslim riots who instigates people about the injustice toward their ‘kom’ at the drop of a hat. The character would have come across as one-note but for a precious couple of details. He is from Gujarat and he carries a scar in his neck. Nothing else about his past is told, but it is enough for us to imagine a back-story that motivates him to do what he does. This is a touch of subtle, economic filmmaking but one that is an aberration in an otherwise loud and screechy film.

Bollywood’s record of making political films is abysmal. At least on that front, Shorgul ventures into a territory that remains largely unexplored. The wounds of Muzaffarnagar are still fresh, albeit not felt as much as it should have been. Shorgul ’s attempt to show the ‘truth’ about Muzaffarnagar riots is therefore well-intentioned. But as a story being told on screen, it is hopelessly below average. The characters are cardboard cutouts: the villainous power-hungry hypocrites Ranjit Om (Jimmy Shergill) and Maulana (Abner Reginald), or the good Hindu (Ashutosh Rana) and good Muslim Zainab (Suha Gezen). As a result, the film becomes unbearable towards the end when the riots break out after a decent build-up in the first half.

The film’s second half is all sound and fury; full of preachy lines like, “ Duniya mein sirf ek hi dharm hai aur woh hai insaaniyat (There is only one religion in the world, humanity)”. Worse, in scenes where we are supposed to be sad or angry at the horror that goes on in the name of religion, there are moments of unintentional hilarity because of bad acting and execution. For instance, the scene in which Rana and Gezen’s car crashes into a tree, where the skullcap-sporting driver, thought to be on their side, breaks into an evil smile.

The only time that I was mildly engaged with the characters, and where the story seems to go somewhere, is when a love triangle emerges between Saleem (a very good Hiten Tejwani), Zainab (Gezen’s performance goes from bad to intolerable) and Raghu (a passable Aniruddh Dave). Quite unexpectedly, the love story becomes the heart of the first half, making us care for the characters and wonder: how is it is going to culminate into the riots?

Shorgul ’s release was postponed because of political pressure. To its credit, the film bluntly takes on real-life references with slightly modified names. Shergill’s Ranjit Om is of the Bharatiya Janatantra Party (modelled on Sangeet Som of BJP) whose speeches evoke history to fuel hatred toward Muslims. While the Narendra Jha character, Alim Khan alludes to Azam Khan. Amid all this, the film has a surprisingly soft stance on the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav (Sanjay Suri as Mithilesh Yadav), who is shown as a thoughtful, responsible young CM.But brave, politically potent references can hardly substitute for good characterisation and some decent writing.


Director: Jitendra Tiwari

Starring: Jimmy Shergill, Ashutosh Rana, Suha Gezen, Eijaaz Khan, Hiten Tejwani, Narendra Jha, Sanjay Suri

Runtime: 132 mins

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Printable version | May 3, 2021 11:18:02 PM |

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