Banners: T-Series, Emmay Entertainment, JA Entertainment, Bake My Cake Films
Producers: Bhushan Kumar, Krishan Kumar, Divya Khosla Kumar, John Abraham, Monisha Advani, Madhu Bhojwani, Sandeep Leyzell
Director: Nikkhil Advani
Cast: John Abraham, Mrunal Thakur, Ravi Kishan, Manish Chaudhari, Rajesh Sharma, Sahidur Rahman, Kranti Prakash Jha
Writer: Ritesh Shah
Music: Rochak Kohli, Tanishk Bagchi, Ankit Tiwari, Vishal-Shekhar, Stereo Nation
Making a film on relevant but controversial real life incidents has lately been willingly taken up by Hindi filmmakers. But it has proved to be tricky as writers and directors must first strive to draw a line between fact and fiction. The balance is understandably difficult to achieve but director Nikkhil Advani and writer Ritesh Shah have cohesively worked together to get the tone just right in Batla House. The John Abraham starrer, despite being a fictionalised depiction of what had really happened in Delhi during September 2008, is a raw and objective narrative.
The story begins with the decorated and renowned officer, Sanjay Kumar arriving at the Batla House location as his team faces young college boys, who according to their investigation, are part of the Indian Mujhahideen terrorist group that was responsible for the Delhi serial blasts of 2008.
As the police force engages in an encounter with them, one of the boys escapes while two die and one is captured alive. This incident sparks a racial debate of the intentions of the police and Sanjay tries everything in his power to prove they were right while the masses and humanitarian groups say that it was faked by the police department even though a ranking officer dies in the crossfire. Suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after the shooting incident and a marriage that is on the verge of breaking down, Sanjay works daringly, often with rogue actions. A thrilling courtroom drama ensues and the jury comes to a decision. Whether the decision is in favour of the police or the college boys, how Sanjay suffers through personal traumas and what to what extent this takes a toll on his life forms the crux of the story.
The biggest USP of the film is the gripping story that the makers have compiled over two and a half hours. They do not waste any time in establishing a lengthy timeline going up to the Batla House incident but in fact concentrate on its aftermath. The journey of Sanjay Kumar, both professionally and personally, has been shown with sincerity without any glorification or in-your-face jingoism.
The dialogue department is a winner with Abraham powerfully pointing out the real meaning of the verses in the Quran as well as putting down his foot and explaining with a shout, “Mere paas investigation ke facts ke alawa kuch nahi hai. Nothing!” There is no excessive dramatisation of situations, which often is the case in films that have a theme of patriotism.
Shah and Advani have made sure that they not only show a linear scenario, which is pro-police, but also explore the possibility of an alternate one, making a strong case for the opposition as well. The way the two sides of the coin have been strategically laid in a gripping and thrilling entertainer is the beauty of the writer-director team.
The touch of the human side of the officers, especially the struggles of Sanjay Kumar who suffers from PTSD post the Batla House shooting provides a convincing reality check. Rather than forcing an unnecessary romance angle in the film, the makers have presented an underlining sub-plot of the core strength of the relationship between Sanjay and his wife, news anchor Nandita Kumar.
The film talks about jihad, racial discrimination and political agendas, all areas in which one has to tread smoothly. The makers have walked the thin line and made sure to address all the issues and the connotations attached to it but with an objective mindset, which works in favour of the film. The film does not try to sway the audience into believing something that they want to show but just lays down the facts, making you question the steps taken during the real-life incident.
A chunk of the climax is dedicated to the court room and the writing by Shah keeps the audience on the edge-of-their seats as logical appeals and statements are made from both sides.
The camerawork by Saumik Mukherjee is brilliant in showcasing the narrow lanes of Delhi. The chase sequence set in small-town Uttar Pradesh between the protagonist and a terrorist has been shot with the right amount of precision and thrill.
And speaking about thrill, John Stewart Eduri’s intriguing background score adds the right touch to it. Maahir Zaveri’s editing also deserves a special mention for keeping the film crisp and exciting.
As for the music, the dance number O saki saki featuring Nora Fatehi has already hit the first slot in the chartbuster list. The other songs in the film are far and few and unintrusive to the storyline at that. A special mention for the use of Jaako rakhe as the background track towards the end.
Performance-wise, John Abraham nails the stern and honorable officer look even as he shows the vulnerabilities that encompass a strong, powerful man in moments of human weakness. And when we speak of action, there is no need to say that the actor braves through that effortlessly as he takes the film across the finish line on his muscular shoulders. Mrunal Thakur does a good job as the supportive wife but should have had more meat to her role. Ravi Kishan makes an impact in the screen time he has. Sahidur Rahman and Kranti Prakash Jha are decent. Manish Chaudhari is average but Rajesh Sharma delivers a strong performance. The rest of the supporting cast adds significant weightage to the film.