Cast: Jimmy Shergill, Ashutosh Rana, Suha Gezen, Eijaz Khan, Hiten Tejwani, Anirudh Dave
Director: Jitendra Tiwari, Pranav Kumar Singh
For quite a few filmmakers, mere ideation of a film script seems to kick off an overexuberant energy in them to go ahead and make a film. Director duo Jitendra Tiwari and Pranav Kumar Singh’s Shorgul is more of a thrilling drama about the spiritual collision between its lead protagonists. Keeping the tenor charged throughout, it attempts to recount the horrors of communal tension arising out of the recent Muzaffarnagar riots and countless other communal riots in our country. Regrettably, it’s fraught with inflammatory speeches and dodgy sermonising. It could be a lesson in inept filmmaking that counts too heavily on dialoguebaazi that went out of fashion in ’80s.
In the small town of Malihabad (our censor board would not have approved of the mention of a real town of Muzaffarnagar) in Uttar Pradesh, a college student Zainab (Suha Gezen) has grown up in a deeply religious Muslim family and is engaged to Saleem (Hiten Tejwani). Her next-door neighbour Chaudhary’s (Ashutosh Rana) family is extremely fond of her and treats her like their daughter. Being objective, unprejudiced and unbiased Chaudhary is a liberal Hindu who is often called by many to settle disputes. Zainab’s protective shell of faith and family starts to crack open, when Chaudhary’s son Raghu (Anirudh Dave), whom she has believed to be her best friend, develops romantic feelings for her.
Compounding her emotional turmoil is the disturbing plight of her fiance Saleem’s rabble-rousing cousin Mustaqueem (Eijaz Khan). Chaudhary is a devout Hindu whose balancing act often gets misconstrued by others. Soon he confronts a terrifying new reality — that of intolerance of his own kith and kin — and goes to desperate lengths to save the hapless victims of uprisings. In the midst of all the tension-filled drama, there is a right-wing politician Ranjeet Om (Jimmy Shergill) who makes no bones about his strong resentment for the Muslims, and openly challenges anyone who is perceived to be a threat to his community. Sowing seeds of disharmony, he and his cronies never leave any vulnerable situation from exploiting it to the hilt.
The subject deals with an old-as-time moral quandary — how far will anyone go to protect one’s religion? Or family? But the movie achieves an understated resonance through many lead characters’ emotionally sensitive compositions and their clued-in portrayal of life in a middle-class community. The film may be well intentioned but the final product turns out to be somewhat ho-hum and oddly less convincing; it could have been a real-life account featuring intense one-on-one conversations stimulating questions about the world we live in.
Instead, the dramatisation of events insipidly tries to answer a few questions. Considering the film’s impressive cast and compelling message, I was willing to cast aside many downers that the film’s narrative is saddled with. But couldn’t overcome its preachy didactic and facile dramatisation of quite a few nuanced real-life tales. Both Rana and Shergill are competent and could force you to admire them as they try to add some heft to the proceedings. Wish there was enough laudable meat to this saga that seems to have misfired!
Arnab Banerjee is a film critic and has been reviewing films for over 15 years. He also writes on music, art and culture, and other human interest stories....