What happened in Delhi and elsewhere in North India in the days following the assassination of former Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi, is gore insanity, to say the least. And this crime thriller here tries to reinvent one of those days with sheer pithiness and smallest fractions of the darkness, which engulfed the whole country in the final months of 1984.
Davinder Singh (Vir Das) is an office-goer who lives with his wife, Tajinder (Sohan Ali Khan), and two young sons in a quiet neighborhood. Immediately following the assassination, violence erupts in the whole state and nearby places, with Sikhs and Punjabis targeted for a crime committed by few nobodies. The story follows Davinder's, a low blood pressure patient, and his family's struggle for survival in a town filled with angry people who are out to draw endless flow of innocent blood.
The film adopts a slow burning narrative, and thus, will take its own time to hook the audience into the story which begins to gather moss only after the 20th minute. The single event about the family is what it mostly focuses on, with tidbits about random killings and unnecessary side stories. One will feel his/her heart thumping as the going gets tough for Davinder's family.
Surprisingly, there's no hint of any political backing behind the genocidal killings. The makers should have added few references, at least as conspiracy theories, to make the plot even more convincing. Still, the formulaic story takes a stand in itself and shows the darkness that happened more than 30 years ago. The makers clearly found the inspiration to make the film based on the topic's notoriety, and serve a virtual case for the victims, the kin of whom are still suffering to this day.
While Das is credible in his portrayal as a Sikh, Khan puts up a mundane act. She never really gels with the other characters despite them being her family members. Their dialogues also do not come out right as far the Sikh language is concerned. But, all this can be overlooked since the film has the capability to hook you.
Conclusively, other than narrating the heartbreaking story about the struggle for one's life in times of man made insanity, it also speaks about the virtue: it is not the appearance that makes a man of certain religion, but the heart and the faith.
BOTTOM LINE: Shivaji Lotan Patil's "31st October" is a slow-burning affair narrating real-life events that need to be watched so as to understand what extents humans can go in the name of patriotism and religious hatred. Rent a DVD!
Can be watched with a typical Indian family? YES