'Jogi' review: Diljit Dosanjh is spectacular in inconsistent, formulaic drama
Ali Abbas Zafar's Jogi premiered on Netflix on Friday. The evacuation thriller/drama stars Diljit Dosanjh, Hiten Tejwani, Kumud Mishra, Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub, and Amyra Dastur in a cameo appearance. Jogi has its heart in the right place and, for the most part, Zafar paints a convincing picture of tragedy and the depths of human depravity, but it's bogged down by formulaic narrative. We review.
'Jogi' chronicles a lionhearted man's quest for survival
The film chronicles the horrendous aftermath of former prime minister Indira Gandhi's assassination—the 1984 anti-Sikh riots that ravaged the country, particularly Delhi. It follows the titular character Jogi (Dosanjh), who takes it upon himself to weather this turbulent storm and rescue his family and neighbors. The ever-excellent Mishra plays a venomous politician who adds fuel to the fire (literally) and orchestrates Sikhs' merciless slaughter.
Film wastes no time, cuts right to the chase
One of the first scenes resembles a postcard memory, with Old Delhi alleys vying for breath and kids playing in the streets—a reminder of a life that once was. This shot establishes that it'll be a consequential day for Jogi's family, but the date (October 31, 1984) plastered across the screen, informs us that their boisterousness will be short-lived. A good example of foreshadowing.
Sequences of killings, torture evoke sympathy and pity
Zafar has excellently staged the sequences that capture the gruesome circumstances the Sikhs went through. From people being reduced to flames to them— and by extension their faith—being kicked and crushed, it turns into an evocative commentary on the seemingly never-ending battle triggered by both self-proclaimed ambassadors of religion and vindictive politicians. After all, people are but mere collateral damage in political warfare.
Watch out for this significant scene
Jogi chopping off his hair is accompanied by pitiful childhood flashbacks, signifying that this isn't just an unwilling departure from his "identity," but it's almost like sharp barbs being injected into his heart. Special mention to the wistful background score that blends into this scene.
However, film begins to lose steam after expeditious beginning
After a rather explosive, edgy start, Jogi seems to lose momentum completely, getting painfully captured into a good-story-bad-execution trope. It tends to lose the very intrigue that had initially set the wheels in motion and gets weary to a point where you simply want the next thing to happen already. The plot's overt dependence on the lead character also peeps from the corners.
Romantic track weighs movie down, only stretches the runtime
Amidst a potent scene that pits two vital characters against each other and should have propelled the story ahead, the narrative abruptly swooshes into a romantic flashback. It undercuts the plot's mounting tragedy and feels forced, clunky, and even frustrating. I raised my eyebrows out of exasperation and at Zafar's choice to switch the gears and momentarily turn Jogi toward the friends-turned-foes path.
Hackneyed third act lends the film a fatigued feel
Despite its slow-burn approach, Jogi could have salvaged itself, but it tragically dwindles due to the aforementioned final act. It's almost as if this part was stitched into the story later on, like an afterthought. Moreover, Mishra's life-threatening dialogues seem monotonous and on the nose.
All actors shine in 'Jogi,' but Dosanjh steals the show!
Jogi is a Dosanjh act from the first scene to the last, and he shines in each frame that he is in. Be it the scenes with his family or the ones where he repeatedly volunteers to put his life on the line, the actor's craft never fumbles or falters. He gets ample support from the supporting cast, particularly Zeeshan Ayyub and Tejwani.
Starts off well, but conventional narrative stops 'Jogi' from soaring
Jogi has Dosanjh holding the fort like never before, and he is an excellent choice to bring the despondent, yet important story to light. However, the film, which starts as a courageous man's saga who turns into a messiah overnight, eventually falls prey to the usual trappings of a cookie-cutter narrative. Verdict: A film that works only in parts, Jogi gets 2.5/5.