October 31, 1984. India. A day that could be considered one of the darkest days in the history of the country and for the Sikh community in Delhi. Following the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi on the same day, a wave of anti-Sikh riots sparks in the city.
Sikhs, including the elderly and children, are attacked and murdered on the streets, at their workplaces and even in their homes. Independent sources put the number of deaths at between 8,000 and 17,000, while the government estimates 2,800 deaths in Delhi and 3,350 deaths across the country.
The movie ‘Jogi’ takes place in a Sikh neighborhood of Delhi and depicts the three days following the assassination of Prime Minister Gandhi. The plot centers on the titular hero Jogi, portrayed by Diljit Dosanjh, and how he ensures over a hundred people of his village flee Delhi despite the fact that a dangerous local councilor and corrupt police officers are attempting to murder them for personal and political gain.
I did a little research and found that there have been multiple films on the 1984 Sikh massacre in the past, but most of them have been in Punjabi. Jogi is one of the rare occasions where mainstream Hindi cinema adapts this poignant story of mass murder and exodus and presents it to the greater number of audiences.
And unlike some of the films in this genre, Jogi does not spread a lot of propaganda. Neither does it disguise any political ideologies that could turn the audience against certain people or communities. Director and co-writer Ali Abbas Zafar has done a good job of sticking to the story without any biases or agendas. Jogi focuses on the incident and the effects it had on people of the Sikh community. By putting one family and its neighborhood at the center, Jogi describes the atrocities faced by thousands of other people during that period.
Given his past performances and also belonging to the same community, it’s only apt that actor Dosanjh plays the lead role. He has also worked as a protagonist in the 2014 Punjabi film ‘Punjab 1984’ on the same broader subject. In Jogi, Dosanjh plays this happy-go-lucky character who turns into a hero for his people overnight. The actor, who is known in the industry for his versatility, perfectly portrays the Sikh protagonist who puts his own life in danger to save his family and also people from his community.
Rawinder Chautala (Mohd. Zeeshan Ayyub), a police officer in Delhi, and Kaleem (Paresh Pahuja) are the two friends that Jogi counts on for helping him covertly evacuate hundreds of Sikhs from Delhi to Mohali while the capital burns in the fires of violence. Tejpal Arora (Kumud Mishra), the councilor of the area, plays a corrupt politician fueling the riots against Sikhs to appease a group of people and support his career.
Even as all the actors put up convincing performances in the film, Jogi is not able to carry the weightage of the subject. Maybe it’s because it jumps directly into action sequences and scenes of violence before establishing a proper connection with the characters involved.
There’s a multi-faith angle given to Jogi’s friends, but the writing is inconsiderate to these characters as it does not give them proper backstories. Also, the titular character himself, who goes on to be a protagonist, does not get a proper introduction in the film. We know who Jogi is, but that knowledge is limited to his identity and name.
Despite it being an important part of the story, the scenes where we revisit the past and bear witness to Jogi’s love life and the tragedy that separates him from his love interest (Amyra Dastur) feel a bit too stretched and unnecessary.
This is the problem with the overall film. It lingers around some scenes a bit too much, which makes its run time of a few minutes short of two hours kind of lethargic. What could have been a passionate telling of a poignant tale, turns out to be a bit underwhelming.
Who should watch it?
Overall, the subject represented by Jogi and the efforts put in by the actors need to be appreciated. The film lacks substance to make it a ‘must watch’ but at the same time it will definitely entertain those interested in history and drama.
Rating: 3 stars
Actors: Diljit Dosanjh, Mohd. Zeeshan Ayyub
Director: Ali Abbas Zafar
Run time: 1hr 54mins