Streaming on Netflix 16th September 2022
The sufferings of the Sikh community in the aftermath of Operation Blue Star is easily one of the most harrowing chapters in the history of India, both Gulzar and Shonali Bose delivered heartbreaking films with Maachis and Ammu respectively, you have also had the web series Grahan that was critically acclaimed. Abbas Ali Zafar’s Jogi is an attempt at revisiting those dark times. Abbas Ali Zafar is someone who is known for a certain style of storytelling which is more commercial in nature, case in point being Sultan, Tiger Zinda Hai, Gunday etc. With the web series Tandav the director tried something different but the attempt wasn’t so successful.
With Jogi the director takes a subject that needs a sensitive treatment. Jogi isn’t exactly a Maachis or an Ammu but it still makes an impact.
The film begins off by showing a happy family planning to celebrate their nephews’ birthday. Diljit Dosanjh plays Joginder fondly called Jogi. It is the evening of October 31st, 1984. The opening scene foreshadows what is going to happen next. You know that the nephew’s birthday is not going to happen. Right after this we are shown how the city erupts in riots, with the then Prime Minister being shot dead by her two Sikh bodyguards. Jogi’s family suffers a personal tragedy as the brother-in-law is set ablaze in a shop. On the other hand the councilor of the Trilokpuri constituency Tejpal Arora (Kumud Mishra) wants to exploit this horrific situation for his own political gains.
He orders the policemen to eliminate the Sikhs from that locality. One of those policemen is the honest cop Ravinder Chautala (Mohmmad Zeeshan Ayyub). Ravinder however decides to help Jogi and his family. But Jogi on the other hand wants to save the entire neighborhood and not just his family. The two of them take the help of the third friend Kaleem Ansari (Paresh Pahuja) who comes forward without any hesitation. There is also Hiten Tejwani as Lali Katyal. He wants to take revenge on Jogi for his own personal reasons. What follows is a survival drama that gives an important message on religious harmony and the importance of friendship and togetherness.
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Abbas Ali Zafar keeps you hooked right from the start and does a successful job in making you root for Jogi. There are no long drawn out back stories of the characters. The film gets right into the issue at hand. The director also takes a bold move by setting the story in the national capital, this makes the film even more hard hitting.
The characters and the way they have written also makes Jogi stand out. The friendship between Jogi, Ravinder, and Kaleem and how the other two stand up for Jogi through thick and thin gives the film some of its best moments. One of the most disturbing moments in the film involves Diljit cutting his hair in order to escape from the rioters. Laal Singh Chaddha featuring Aamir also had a scene where Mona Singh does the same thing in order to save her son, but here this scene hits in a different way.
Some of the closes up shots are difficult to watch but at the same time it does make the film more impactful.
Diljit Dosangh is the perfect casting choice for the title role. There is a certain quality about the actor that makes it easy to root for him. The actor had previously acted in the Punjabi Film 1984 based on a similar subject and that comes in very handy for this. He lets the eyes do most of the talking without any over the top speeches.
Mohmmed Zeeshan Ayyub shines the brightest in the supporting cast. He excels as the police officer who decides to go against his superiors. Kumud Mishra is also suitably evil. The background music by Julius Packiam adds to the tense atmosphere.
The couple of soft spots include the reason for Lalli’s hate towards Jogi. The short flashback feels forcefully inserted and you get the feeling that it doesn’t belong here. The unnecessary love story featuring Diljit and Amyra Dastur slows down the proceedings for a while. It also doesn’t help that Laali has an abrupt change of mind after one lengthy dialogue by Diljit. It would have also been nice if more scenes of Jogi with family were shown.
Final word: Keeping aside the flaws there is no denying that Abbas Ali Zafar reinvents himself with this one.