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.
31st October, a rare Hindi film focused on the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, decisively checks the first box. It, however, fails to score big on the second count.
Written by producer Harry Sachdeva and inspired by true incidents, 31st October makes a fair fist of recreating one of the darkest days in the history of independent India. Directed by Marathi filmmaker Shivaji Lotan Patil, 31st October makes the right noises but is unable to direct and land its blows with the ferocity that could get the audience all pumped up.
A story as simple as that has been embellished with a dozen unnecessary characters (each one's death adding to the runtime), lessons on the Sikh community, Sonu Nigam singing over slo-mo riot scenes and a B-story of blossoming love, that is altogether forgotten 15 minutes into the movie.
Soha Ali Khan and Vir Das try to be sincere but don’t have much to do. Das’s Devinder practically spends the whole second half sitting, sleeping, huffing and puffing to combat his low blood pressure.
To its credit, the movie is only 102 minutes long, and you can see a sense of honesty in it. But the final product is underwhelming and looks like a small-scale remake of the Hollywood film franchise, The Purge (innocent people running scared on the streets, dodging murderous mobs).