Director: Nikkhil Advani
"Batla House" | Facts messed up by fiction
In various interviews, the Batla House team has declared that their film is an attempt to seek definite answers to questions that still remain, regarding the alleged Batla House encounter in Delhi’s Okhla area that happened in the aftermath of the 2008 serial blasts.
Ironically, in a crucial courtroom scene of the climax, when the defence and prosecution are arguing to establish the guilt or innocence of a key suspect, an announcement appears on the screen stating that the filmmakers “do not endorse the viewpoint of either party”.
You realise at that point where the problem with the film lies. Like most other mainstream Bollywood efforts claiming to bare truths, Batla House, too, is hesitant when it comes to bluntly stating facts. It takes a while for the film to reach that sort of an indecisive stage, after the advantage of an impressive start is squandered away over the larger part of its nearly two-and-half hour runtime. Director Nikkhil Advani has credibly handled the genre of gritty thriller based on real-life terror in his 2013 release, D-Day.
An elaborate statutory note right at the start, in Hindi and English, declares that the film is fiction based on facts. Probably Advani forgot a balance between fiction and facts had to be maintained. John Abraham cuts a picture of gravitas as the film’s hero Sanjay Kumar, the top cop in the line of fire after the encounter-op, because he headed it.
Ritesh Shah’s writing sets up the encounter incident right at the start, with pulsating suspense and drama. As things go horribly wrong, the police are forced to open fire. Getting out of the area would have been a problem for ACP Sanjay and his team, unless back-up force arrived in time.
Thereafter, things go downhill for the cops. The film loses its initial inertia as Advani spends too much footage explaining how the whole world starts to hate Delhi Police, and dubs them as murderers of innocent students after the Batla House killings. Activists, students, placard-flashing protestors and news channels alike demand ‘justice’ for the young men, convinced they are innocent students. Batla House names Indian Mujahideen as the masterminds of the serial blasts but refuses to probe deeper. While scenes of the hero’s topsy-turvy marriage hinders pace in the first half, Nora Fatehi’s item number seems wholly out of place in what should have been an edge-of-the-seat second half.
John Abraham’s act apart, there is not much to talk about among the cast. Mrunal Thakur, seen recently in the Hrithik Roshan-starrer Super 30, suffers from a badly-penned role.