Movie Review: Shorgul

July 1, 2016
Handout Photo: Actors Hiten Tejwani and Suha Gexen in "Shorgul"

Handout Photo: Actors Hiten Tejwani and Suha Gexen in “Shorgul”

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

Director duo P Singh and Jitendra Tiwari’s “Shorgul” (cacophony) is a supposed exploration of the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots and the reasons behind it. It would be too much to expect a nuanced, honest film that attempts to look at mob mentality and the socio-political reasons that lead to communal riots, but the film doesn’t achieve even 10 percent of its objective.

Melodrama and clichés rule in this 130-minute film and you even hear a character talk about “insaniyat ka dharm (the religion of humanity), a phrase that you thought belonged to the 80s. In the world of “Shorgul”, everything is black and white – the villain will give you a nasty snarl in his very first scene, and the hero will smile beatifically at the camera while romancing the coy leading lady. There is no room for doubt.

The lady in question is Zainab (Suha Gezen), a wide-eyed and giggly college student who is betrothed to Salim (Hiten Tejwani) and completely oblivious to the fact that her childhood friend Raghu is madly in love with her. Things become complicated when Salim’s cousin Mustaqeem (Ejaz Khan), who has just moved from Gujarat and is convinced that his religion is under attack, enters the picture.

One thing leads to another, and soon the whole town is burning and there are sword-wielding mobs running through the streets. Zainab, who is seen as the root cause of the riots, becomes a hunted woman and seeks refuge with Raghu’s father, an influential farmer leader who she considers a father figure. But against a toothless police force and politicians on both sides engineering violence, even he cannot do much.

“Shorgul” is too busy splashing fake blood on its characters to give you any real insight. In the end, it plays out like a Prakash Jha movie. It paints politicians as the main villains, which is easier than accounting for historical and social reasons for communal strife.

Of the cast, Hiten Tejwani and Ashutosh Rana (as Choudhary, the farmer leader) are a pleasure to watch and they bring a sense of reassuring calm to the proceedings. Jimmy Shergill plays Ranjeet Som, a dapper politician who has national ambitions and uses the riots to further his agenda.

While the intentions may have been in the right place, the real voice of “Shorgul” is lost in melodrama and fake blood.

(Editing by David Lalmalsawma; Follow Shilpa on Twitter at @shilpajay and David at @davidlms25. This article is website-exclusive and cannot be reproduced without permission)

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