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    Jogi movie review | A sincere film on 1984 anti-Sikh riots ruined by a weak finale

    Jogi movie review | A sincere film on 1984 anti-Sikh riots ruined by a weak finale

    Jogi movie review | A sincere film on 1984 anti-Sikh riots ruined by a weak finale
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    By Sneha Bengani   IST (Published)

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    Jogi is perceptive and agile for as long as it sticks to the boiling reaction to Indira Gandhi’s murder and its life-altering effect on a religious minority. But it loses its centre as it tries to zoom in and make personal of a national tragedy. Directed by Ali Abbas Zafar and starring Diljit Dosanjh in the eponymous role, it is streaming on Netflix.

    Jogi shows in harrowing detail the brutal, relentless persecution of the Sikh community in Delhi after the assassination of the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi on October 31, 1984. Spread across three days, it unpacks the horrors of the anti-Sikh riots by focusing its lens on one ordinary man — Joginder Singh — and his extraordinary decision to save his people from extermination.
    Directed by Ali Abbas Zafar, and written by him and Sukhmani Sadana, Jogi moves from the outside in. The film wastes no time. It immediately introduces us to the central family and within minutes, places us in the middle of a raging riot — streets burning, people set on fire, ruthless vandalism, and mindless violence. The afflicted minority has no time to react, so one of their own decides to act. With the help of two of his childhood friends, Ravinder, a Hindu police officer (Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub), and Kaleem, a Muslim heavy-duty transport operator (Paresh Pahuja), Jogi (Diljit Dosanjh) hatch a plan to make his people flee Delhi.
    The film’s first half is terrific. So is the lead cast and the cinematography by DOP Marcin Laskawiec. There are top-down aerial shots of police jeeps snaking through the graveyard of a city and people fleeing for their lives as the world around them crumbles down. It brilliantly shows the smallness of human smugness, the futility of bias, and how greed breeds myopia.
    Jogi is a lot like Airlift (2016) and countless other rescue thrillers in which a good samaritan rises to the occasion and becomes an unlikely hero. Throughout the film, the eponymous lead performs several larger-than-life acts of bravery and selflessness but Dosanjh grounds him beautifully with his sincerity, vulnerability, and everydayness. Even when the drama is at its most intense, Dosanjh remains restrained, giving Jogi a rare rootedness, an easy affability. He is poignant, profound, and earnest, even when the screenplay fails him in the final act. I cannot imagine anyone else playing Jogi with such raw ache and I am glad no one did.
    The film gives Dosanjh ample stage to prove his acting prowess and he doesn’t disappoint even once. Take for instance this one scene early in the film, when Jogi is forced to cut his hair short to conceal his identity. Intercut with flashback shots from the ceremony when he first tied a turban as an adolescent, it is shot at a stepwell. We see Jogi’s reflection in the dark water as he loses his sense of self strand by strand. The entire sequence has no words, just quiet tears, all-consuming grief, and an actor at the peak of his craft. Jogi gets to wear his turban again in the end in a scene that’s just as heartbreaking.
    Ayyub as the stoic, dependable cop friend Ravinder is great too. In an increasingly polarized and communal democracy, this Netflix film bats for secularism, religious pluralism, and tolerance. But it does not underline it in any way. We are never told that Ravinder and Jogi are childhood friends. We just know. There are no Sholay (1975) or, to quote a more recent example, Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety (2016) kind of grand, verbose proclamations of friendship. Ravinder, Kaleem, and Jogi don’t talk; they just do.
    Kumud Mishra is dependable as always as Tejpal Arora, a local councillor who doesn’t mind organizing a carnage to secure a party ticket. However, towards the end, much like all else, his character too loses the plot. He starts by aiming for a holocaust; he wishes to wipe the city off every last Sikh in the three days before the army seizes control. But as the film progresses, his hunt narrows down specifically to the people of Jogi’s lane.
    What also doesn’t make sense is the attempt to peg a bad cop’s actions to personal vendetta. There’s a flashback to Jogi’s days at Delhi University and a bit of a romance. It’s so fleeting, undercooked, and unconvincing, that it feels forced and absolutely expendable.
    Jogi is perceptive and agile for as long as it sticks to the boiling reaction to Indira Gandhi’s murder and its life-altering effect on a religious minority. There is a heist sequence in the first half when Jogi and Ravinder are trying to smuggle their people to safety in Mohali. It’s thrilling, suspenseful, and high on octane. Similarly, there are a lot of impressive chase sequences in which Tom and the team miss Jerry and friends by a whisker. But the film loses its centre as it tries to zoom in and make personal of a national tragedy.
    Though it says that it is loosely based on true events, Jogi tries hard to not hurt any sentiments and therefore packages a shameful blot in India’s history as a story of friendship and hope. Not that I have any problem with these virtues, but Jogi could have been hard-hitting and fearless. However, it chooses to be safe instead. If only it was half as doughty as the man it celebrates.
    Jogi is available for streaming on Netflix.
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