03/07/2016 8:42 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:27 AM IST

'Shorgul': A Potent Performance-Driven Political Thriller

STR via Getty Images
Indian Bollywood actors Ejaz Khan, (L), Suha Gezen (C) and Hiten Tejwani attend the press conference of upcoming Hindi film 'Shorgul' - based on the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots - directed by Swatantra Singh, in Mumbai on June 29, 2016. / AFP / STR (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)

Directed by Jitendra Tiwari and starring Jimmy Sheirgill, Ashutosh Rana, Hiten Tejwani, Suha Gezen, Narendra Jha, Anirudh Dave and Sanjay Suri in the major roles, Shorgul is loosely based on the infamous 2013 Hindu-Muslim Muzaffarnagar riots. Owing to its controversial subject, the makers faced strong opposition from both Hindu and Muslim leaders with multiple PILs being filed and a fatwa issued against Jimmy Sheirgill.

Shorgul is a potent political thriller that's highly relevant to the times we live in. Set in the city of Malihabad (instead of Muzaffarnagar), the film depicts the dark machinations of communal politics practiced in Uttar Pradesh. The movie doesn't back down from taking swipes at unscrupulous religious leaders who use religion as a mere tool to realize their evil designs. Shorgul underscores the importance of unity and peaceful coexistence in a democratic setup. It reminds us that there is good and bad on both the sides.

The movie features memorable performances from Ashutosh Rana and Jimmy Sheirgill. While Sheirgill is at great ease playing a politician who thrives on the politics of divide and rule, Rana reminds us of his remarkable range as an actor. His screen presence is still as commanding (and his gaze as piercing) as it used to be when he did films like Dushman and Sangharsh -- easily the best works of Rana's chequered career. They are well backed by the rest of the cast with Eijaz Khan, Hiten Tejwani and Narendra Jha leading from the front. Suha Gezen, the pretty actress who plays the central character Zainab, reminds one of a young Tisca Chopra.

Unfortunately, Shorgul's screenplay is quite predictable and suffers from pacing issues.

Unfortunately, Shorgul's screenplay is quite predictable and suffers from pacing issues. It seems to have drawn heavily from the recent riots in certain parts of UP. Even the names of some of the pivotal characters are directly based on famous politicians hailing from Uttar Pradesh. Alas, it reflects lack of thought and laziness on the part of screenwriters.

Overall, Shorgul makes for a decent watch. It scores heavily on the acting front and the performances alone make it watchable. Lalit Pandit's music adds soul to the film. Shorgul's strong socio-political commentary succeeds in depicting the ugliness of vote bank politics and in raising pertinent questions about the lack of tolerance that engenders communal hatred. More importantly, it holds a message about the true meaning of humanity.

Rating: B

A version of this review was first published in A Potpourri of Vestiges.

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