Film: Batla House
Cast: John Abraham, Mrunal Thakur, Manish Chaudhary, Rajesh Sharma, Abdul Qadir Amin, Ravi Kishan, Nora Fatehi
Director: Nikhil Advani
Rating: * * *
As the disclaimer portends Nikhil Advani’s take on the Batla House encounter is purely fictitious – with a few pertinent facts thrown in to obfuscate memories of what some term as a contentious tragedy. A scrupulous by-the-book ACP. Sanjay Kumar (John Abraham), because of some pre-empting from his own Special cell team (led by Ravi Kishan as Sub. Insp. Kishen Kumar) ends up having to face flak from his superiors, activists and a minority-backlash fearing administration.
But the narrative which starts out in such ambitious fashion ends up vacillating between a righteous position and a politically right leaning one – thus making little sense in the bargain. So even though we get to see the ACP exhibit Post traumatic Stress Disorder symptoms following the shoot-out that killed several students alleged to have been responsible for the 13th Sept serial blasts in Delhi, and an encounter specialist/cop, we find it difficult to buy into his justification on the validity of his call to engage with fire – despite the orders from above being merely to investigate. After taking up a major portion of the runtime with this convoluted point of view, the writer-Director then posits a courtroom drama (spearheaded by Rajesh Sharma as the Defence lawyer) that half-heartedly attempts to invalidate what came before it.
The festering relationship between the ACP and his wife Nandita (Mrunal Thakur), though it takes up a large portion of the runtime, feels rather underdeveloped. Even the TV grab footage involving current opposition leaders appears to have been placed strategically appears suspect. Despite the National Human Rights Commission’s clean chit to the ACP, doubts persist regarding the veracity of the claims as presented by him. The same applies to this film too.
But despite the many negatives of this sort of representation this film has enough benefits to offer an audience predisposed solely towards entertainment value. The narrative is gritty and heartfelt even though confused. The script, though inconsistent, manages to lend the central character enough teeth to be sympathised with. And that’s as much to do with John Abraham’s most significant in-character performance as it has to do with the writing itself. The cinematography aligns itself well with true to life exemplification. Nora Fatehi’s presence adds the much derided Bollywood masala feel so the lack of veracity in this depiction sits well. The narrative even manages to garner some tension along the way. That’s really why this film is a fairly invigorating experience!