Jogi is the kind of political drama you would like to get behind, dealing as it does with the anti-Sikh riots in Delhi in 1984. There have been only a handful of films and documentaries about the attacks that followed the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards on October 31, 1984. There is far greater documentation in the news media and academia about the complicity of politicians from Gandhi’s Congress Party in the slaughter of Sikhs and the attacks on their homes and businesses.

The latest screen version of the horrors of 1984, however, is as ineffective as it is well-intentioned. Ali Abbas Zafar’s film, which is being streamed on Netflix, is a budget Schindler’s List-style saga of courage under fire.

Zafar’s screenplay, co-written with Sukhmani Sadana, views events through the prism of a thriller. There are valorous escapes, near-misses, and even a deus ex machina as government employee Jogi tries to stay safe and alive,

The film opens on the day of Gandhi’s assassination. The setting is Trilokpuri, the West Delhi neighbourhood that saw some of the worst violence.

Jogi (Diljit Dosanjh), his family and neighbours find themselves trapped from all sides. With the help of Ravinder (Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub), an old friend who is now in the Delhi police, Jogi and his community attempt to flee to safer ground. The Jogi-Ravinder partnership is threatened by Ravinder’s colleague Lali (Hiten Tejwani), who is among the law-enforcers turned law-breakers.

Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub in Jogi. Courtesy AAZ Films/Netflix.

The violence is being directed by local legislator Tejpal Arora (Mukud Mishra), who is possibly modelled on Congress leader Sajjan Kumar. The situation is worsening, bring on the mutton biryani, Tejpal smirks. He is surely not the first politician to use voters’ lists to select targets and treat the riots as a stepping stone to a great role in government.

The aestheticised violence and patches of contrived drama are ill-suited to a film of this type. There is no urgency or a sense of raging violence in the scenes in which Jogi and Ravinder stand around, plotting their next move.

Even though Zafar keeps the bombast to a minimum, and despite committed performances from the cast (especially by Dosanjh and Ayyub), Jogi struggles to create a palpable sense of a minority community under attack for the faults of a few of its members. The film always means well, but can’t bridge the gap between ambition and implementation.

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Jogi (2022).