Om surya namaskar and Eid Mubarak live in sevaiyyan-sweet harmony. Zainab and
Raghu have grown up with their respective families cherishing each other’s culture
and religious beliefs. Raghu’s much-respected father Chaudhrysaab upholds
justice and incessantly works towards defusing communal tension in their town.
Zainab is happily engaged to her cousin Salim who adores
her and shares the same values as her family. Salim unquestioningly accepts and
understands her friendship with Raghu. But, over the years, Raghu has fallen in
love with Zainab who’s unaware of it, as he’s never brought it up fearing it
would spoil their friendship.
The peace is pierced when a radicalised relative comes
to stay with Salim’s family. Right from associating with a dodgy maulana to
telling Zainab that she should be spending time with her own community, this
hardened fanatic spells all-round trouble. He finally succeeds in raising
doubts in Salim’s mind about Zainab’s childhood friend until it leads to the
tragic killing of Raghu.
That’s just what the divisive politicians of UP have
been waiting for. It’s Chaudhrysaab who has lost his son Raghu but having a
field day are men like MLA Om who spews venom against Muslims and Alim Khan who
spreads hatred in the name of religion.
Caught between Har har Mahadev and Allah-o-Akbar, this
is typical UP politics with its omnipresent volatility. And there are some very
fine performers around who could have lent it much credibility. Suave-looking Jimmy
Shergill as the Muslim-bashing Om, Ashutosh Rana as the unbelievably amiable Chaudhrysaab,
Hiten Tejwani as the clean-thinking Salim, and Narendra Jha as the
hate-mongering Alim Khan, are all extremely sincere.
But, and this is a big but, the semblance of a good
plot goes as out of hand as the communal flare-ups of UP. Between writers Shashie-Vermaa and Raj Verma
and directors Jitendra Tiwari and P Singh, Shorgul
is overdone and overlong. The dialogues do try to make a statement. Like
Salim’s father telling the radicalised young man that his padhai should be his mahzab.
Or Salim who is clean-shaven commenting that being a true Mussalman is not
about wearing your identity for external show. But the statement is lost as his
own father sports a beard. There are
lectures galore on communal amity, prolonged scenes of religious riots and
plenty of convenient writing, which make it tiresome. Casting an unknown girl
as Zainab who is the pivot, and running riot with her screen time, further drags
a relevant subject.
For a film that could have packed a wallop but doesn’t
throw the right punches, Shorgul
gets a 2.5* rating.
Bharathi S Pradhan
Senior Journalist & Author