Hindi Film Review
Batla HouseBy: Shaheen Raaj
“Batla House Is A Powerful Warfare Saga”
Banner: T-Series, Emmay Entertainment, Bake My Cake Films & above all John Abraham Entertainment
Producers: Bhushan Kumar, Divya Khosla Kumar, Krishan Kumar, Monisha Advani Madhu Bhojwani, Sandeep Leyzell & above all John AbrahamStar Cast: John Abraham, Mrunal Thakur, Ravi Kishen, Manish Chaudhari, Rajesh Sharma, Sonam Arora, Sahidur Rahman, Kranti Prakash Jha, Alok Pandey, Faizan Khan, Niranjan Jadhao, Chirag Katrecha, Yatharth Kansal, Utkarsh Rai & even Nora Fatehi
Director: Nikhil Advani
The films based on or inspired from true incidents always have an edge, especially if it is made well. A recent classic example being that of Article 15, loosely inspired from Badaun rape case & Una flogging incident & which became a commercial success. Now Nikkhil Advani attempts to unravel the mystery behind the more than a decade old Batla House encounter in his flick, also titled Batla House.
So the scripted scenario of Batla House reveals the story of an upright cop caught in a sticky situation. The year is 2008. The Indian Mujahideen has conducted a series of blasts across the country. Their latest attack is in the capital city, Delhi, on 13th Sept, 2008. ACP Sanjay Kumar (John Abraham) is having trouble in his marriage with Nandita (Mrunal Thakur). On 19th Sept, 2008, he is informed by his team that the terrorists responsible for this blasts are holed up in a flat in L-18, Batla House in the Okhla locality of the city. Before Sanjay Kumar could reach the site, his junior officer K K (Ravi Kishan) orders the team to engage with the occupants of the said house. The occupants who are Okhla University students fire at the cops, injuring K K grievously. Sanjay Kumar meanwhile reaches on the spot & he along with the rest of the police team eliminate the shooters. One of them, Tufail (Alok Pandey) is arrested. Even before the cops could leave, the residents begin raising slogans against the police. Soon, the media & even the political leaders blame the police for staging a fake encounter. K K on the other hand passes away in hospital. Sanjay Kumar meanwhile finds it difficult to prove that he’s right & that these residents of Batla House were indeed a part of Indian Mujahideen. He also informs the police department that there were 2 more guys in the Batla House flat who escaped, one of which is Dilshaad Ahmed (Sahidur Rehman). He escaped to Nizampur, Uttar Pradesh. Sanjay Kumar’s senior Jayvir (Manish Chaudhari) sternly tells Sanjay Kumar not to head to Nimzapur to arrest Dilshaad. Yet, Sanjay defies the orders and heads to nab Dilshaad with his team. In Nizampur, he encounters hostile residents & a leader of a political party who tell him to back off. Yet, Sanjay Kumar goes ahead & attempts to take Dilshaad back to Delhi. The locals on one hand are baying for his blood. On other hand, Jayvir & other senior cops are slamming Sanjay Kumar for his irresponsible action. What happens next forms the rest of the crux of the film.
Ritesh Shah’s story is well researched & gripping. Moreover, it’s extremely relevant in today’s times. Many might not be aware of this case & how it led to such a huge controversy at that time. Hence, the novelty factor is also there. Ritesh Shah’s screenplay is captivating for most of the parts but is shaky in the 1st ever half. The film should have been simpler yet thrilling & devoid of too much of docu drama feel, for a better impact. However, there’s no doubt that some scenes are exceptionally scripted. Ritesh Shah’s dialogues are acidic & sharp. The one liners in the climax also work very well.
Nikkhil Advani’s direction is simply brilliant. He understands the material he has in his hand & its sensitive nature. He has even handled some scenes deftly & shows his brilliance in the interrogation scene in the 1st ever half & later in the courtroom sequences. Also, the Rashomon effect works well here to make the audiences wonder as to which version is correct. However, a few scenes in the 1st ever half are not up to the mark. Some scenes might even confuse the viewers. For instance, it is bewildering why Sanjay Kumar switches off the camera during a crucial interrogation. Thankfully, the plusses outweigh the minuses by a huge margin here.
Batla House’s 1st ever half is decent but one misses the overall “Wow” factor here. The reason behind the straining of relations between Sanjay Kumar & Nandita is not explained properly. The encounter is only partly shown & hence, one remains confused as to what exactly transpired between the police & the students. Also, Sanjay Kumar’s constant hallucination sequences become a little too much after a point. But on the positive side, a few scenes are quite promising. The film picks up in a big way when Sanjay Kumar quotes from the Holy Quran while interrogating Tufail. This powerful scene will surely be greeted with claps & whistles & it also proves how vested interests smartly misinterpret religious texts for violent gains. The Nizampur episode is a bit over the top but is quite thrilling. The intermission point also comes at a great moment. Post interval, the interest levels increase as Sanjay Kumar gets determined to nab Dilshaad. The entry of Victoria (Nora Fatehi) adds charm to the film. But the best is reserved for the last 35 to 40 minutes. The courtroom drama is quite exhilarating & even claps worthy. Also, once the entire scenario becomes clear, the film becomes simpler. As a result, audiences would be even more interested once they know the complete picture. Sanjay Kumar’s monologue at this hour ensures the film ends on a high.
Songs aren’t memorable except of course “O Saki Saki”. The item song is quite entertaining but it starts off quite suddenly though. “Rula Diya’” & “Jaako Rakhe” are okay. John Stewart Eduri’s background score is subtle yet adds to the impact. Adil Shaikh’s choreography in “O Saki Saki” is visually great.
Soumik Mukherjee’s cinematography is topnotch. This is especially in the interior scenes of Batla House flat & even in the chase sequence in the small town. Priya Suhas’s production design is quite realistic. Amin Khatib’s action is thrilling & yet not gory or disturbing at all. Maahir Zaveri’s editing is razor sharp in many scenes & also stylish. But this kind of editing also affects the impact in some of the scenes in the 1st ever half.
Performance wise Batla House belongs to John Abraham, without a shred of doubt. He is not just playing a brave, decorated police officer. He also essays the role of a person who is abused & slammed from all quarters. No one wants to know or believe his version of truth. The trauma he faces is brought out beautifully by John Abraham. Also, he’s 1st rate as expected in action scenes & also in dramatic & even the confrontational sequences. Mrunal Thakur is letdown a bit by the script as the back story is never revealed. But she gives a decent performance. In the 2nd half, she impresses even more as the woman who stands up for her husband. Ravi Kishan leaves a huge mark in a small role. Manish Chaudhari is efficient. Rajesh Sharma as advocate Shailesh Arya is quite scathing, as per his character’s requirement. Nora Fatehi provides the much needed sizzle in the film. Her character has a small but important role in the film. Alok Pandey, Sahidur Rehman & even Faizan Khan play their respective parts with earnest. Pramod Pathak as the defense counsel P Krishnan has a late entry but makes an impact. Others also do well.
Tail Piece: On the whole, Batla House is a powerful warfare saga which is sure to spark off discussions & debates. The relevant plot, the watertight screenplay, the clap worthy moments & the terrific performance by John Abraham makes Batla House as one of the finest films of the year.
At the box office turnstiles, Batla House will have a promising run. Strictly Recommended!