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JOGI (Netflix) - This is the result when a writer-director known for mainstream Bollywood hits is roped in to make a film on the sensitive issue of the Sikhs Genocide in 1984. (Review by Bobby Sing)

16 Sep, 2022 | Just In / Movie Reviews / 2022 Releases

Time heals and time also makes the memories slowly fade away passing through generations after almost four decades of a shocking national shame. That is the reason, many (born later) might not be able to feel the exact pain, trauma, and unforgettable shocks experienced by the people at that time when even the known turned into killers in just a few hours. If truth be told then the November of 1984 was quite close to the scary scenario of communal riots in the country around the independence in 1947.

However, the big difference was that this time it wasn’t any clash or riot between religious groups, but an open genocide of Sikhs, that continued right in front of everyone’s eyes for three long days on the deserted roads and localities of Delhi, the capital of India.

Anyway, I am not keen to write more about those dark days, witnessed as a 12 years old boy because JOGI doesn’t inspire me to write anything as a personal expression of those frightening weeks or rather months.

As a film, JOGI is a perfect example of how a sensitive subject loses its direction, when given to a writer-director obsessed and known for the typical Bollywood mainstream projects of stars like Salman Khan and more. 

Without going into the details (that are quite obvious), just try to visualise the script progression of a film based on those three terrible days of November 1984. Even if it remains focussed on only a few characters, a mohalla, or a couple of families or friends, how would you assume the film to progress depicting the unfortunate times?
As a logical and responsibly written film, it will first get over all the build-ups, sub-plots, or lighter moments if any before moving on to the genocide sending shivers down the spine of the unaware viewers. But once the story moves into the tragedy, it would ideally never look back or get into the backstories or typical twists of a Bollywood film inserting any unrelated sequences or sub-plots…… forget a love song.
However, JOGI exactly does that, and it’s really strange to see the entire team (including Diljit) agreeing to this kind of weird second half of a film talking about the genocide.
On the cost of giving the spoilers, JOGI begins maintaining its focus as an average to decent film on the subject, with a few heartfelt moments making you relate with the characters on screen. But then after about 80 minutes of everything revolving around the countless cold-blooded killings and the political support involving the police, the writer-director suddenly decides to bring in a college backstory of a love affair, a pre-marriage pregnancy, a tussle between the friends resulting in rivalry and personal revenge ruining the entire focus. 
Above all, after 80 minutes of such disturbing sequences, with goons killing the Sikhs on roads and authorities backing them with supplies of explosives and ammunition, the writer-director displays amazing courage by throwing in a romantic song with the lyrics “Yeh jo sang ho rahi hain tafriyan, uff yeh mastiyan, mehngi sastiyan". 

Now, if the above disclosure doesn’t reveal the vision behind the film, then I really don’t know what would better describe the film’s inability to express, relate and convey the unbearable pain of the victim families still waiting for their justice even after around four decades. Recalling the good old times of film-reels being played one after another in a single screen theater, in the present digital world I cannot even say that perhaps the wrong reel got played later, whereas it was supposed to be played in the first thirty minutes of the show. (Friends from the era before 2000 would easily relate to that).
In straight words, JOGI is a film, that has been simply made as just another project trying to bring forward the painful memories of a tragedy without any realistic vision or message in its onscreen depiction. Hence, I cannot even say that it has been made with all the right intentions. As I feel, such films need to raise questions, spreading awareness among the next generations, forcing them to think and research further about the era, for their own understanding of our society and character development. 
Unfortunately, JOGI isn’t interested in any such thing and the director vaguely uses the premise to create a film like ARGO (English), revolving around a group of people being rescued by the protagonist. The confused vision also becomes crystal clear from its final 40 minutes, where the writer-director goes back to the same old typical Bollywoodisation of a serious subject, turning it into a personal vengeance and political saga. That is also why a talented actor like Diljit struggles to leave a long-lasting impact along with many other reputed names in the supporting cast. That said, a special deserving mention has to be made of Hiten Tejwani playing a corrupt police officer. After a long time, here was a well enacted villain, I loved to hate.
On the other end, neither the background score nor the strictly unrequired songs add anything significant to the film (including a Shabad in the end). To be fair, the only scene that successfully makes an emotional connection with the viewers is the one where Diljit meets the family in the Gurdwara, after cutting his hair in order to save more lives.
With JOGI, the makers also try to portray, as if one community helped the Sikhs in those days and the other didn’t. Here I would like to add in bold letters that people from all communities were against the Sikhs at that particular time, including the known and many unknown strangers, who were not locals but suddenly appeared in Delhi in big numbers. They all took undue advantage of the liberty given by mercilessly killing and looting the properties belonging to Sikhs and were strangely well aware of the exact addresses. But at the same time, people from every other community were also among the saviours, who saved several lives of Sikh families, giving them shelter in their homes, risking their own existence. So, as a film, JOGI unnecessarily tries to give a biased twist to the tragedy that isn’t expected from any such project featuring names like Diljit Dosanjh (representing the community), particularly in the present times.
Besides, for the people who loudly praised THE KASHMIR FILES a few months back. I hope they would take notice of a similar strategy followed in November 1984 too, when the voters' lists were distributed among the hired goons and houses/shops of Sikhs were marked, as shown in one of most successful film of the year about Kashmiri Pandits. More importantly, another truth remains that none of the opposition parties or leaders came forward to stop the atrocities for three long days at that time and all chose to remain silent for their individual reasons.
Overall, though JOGI is a weak project made on the sensitive subject of 1984, hope it at least spreads the much-required awareness among the youngsters and our religiously charged viewers, who have now become habitual of watching, reading, and analyzing everything around with a biased one-eyed approach.
Rating : 2.5 / 5 (including an additional 0.5 because films on such issues essentially need to be made, till the justice is served which is still awaited)

Note 1: I wish Diljit had not agreed to many forced filmy insertions in the film, as now a feebly attempted JOGI will always get a mention with his far superior and award-winning Punjabi film PUNJAB 1984 (2014) tackling the same subject. As a Hindi film, JOGI will certainly get much more viewers in the coming times than PUNJAB 1984.

Note 2: After almost four decades of the genocide and two decades of films being made on the theme, I still rate the award-winning AMU (2004) as the best project on the subject to date post Gulzar's MAACHIS in the mid-90s. Interestingly AMU was neither written nor directed by a Punjabi or Punjabi-knowing person. It was so caringly and thoughtfully written and directed by Shonali Bose and even had a cast not featuring any Sikh or Punjabi representing the community. In fact, that is how at times, a third perspective unexpectedly results in a brilliant take on a socially relevant subject. 

AMU is now available online in a censored version with a lot of scenes and dialogues chopped from the original film as conceived by Bose. So do try to catch it if you still haven’t.

For friends interested in reading AMU’s BTC review, it is available at the following link and the film is right there in BTC list of Movies To See Before You Die.


Tags : Jogi (Netflix) Movie Review by Bobby Sing at bobbytalkscinema.com, Hindi movies made on Sikhs Genocide of 1984, Diljit Dosanjh in film based on 1984, Diljit in Punjab 1984
16 Sep 2022 / Comment ( 0 )
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