When you tell a story, you take sides. Nikhil Advani has answers to the Batla House incident. More clarity than the system offers. Here is a film where you take the mandatory disclaimer seriously. In fact, in a moment of artistic honesty, a dialogue is thrown to the viewer which admits to Your Truth Vs. My Truth.
To the uninitiated, the narrative deals with a real-life incident – the controversial encounter popularly known as the Batla House Encounter. The directorial version starts with the protagonist Sanjay Kumar (a brooding John Abraham) being unwilling to sort out marital issues with wife Nandita (Mrunal Thakur). He is what Prakash Mehra left behind in Zanjeer or what Govind Nihlani left behind in Ardh Satya. Only this time, the protagonist has not many emotions to convey and has a single expression for the entire 146 minutes of the thriller seeped in politics.
Within minutes you have a taut shot at the encounter and the victims and the police are all over the place. With most in the cast on either side of the fence not familiar faces, you are called upon to be attentive with the narrative. While the police find themselves at the receiving end of not only terrorist groups but also the media and the activists, our protagonist does not believe in discretion. Political bigwigs find it difficult to be seen with him and at the same time are willing to appease.
There are other ‘local political leaders’ who are clearly with the terrorists. Loud in your face activists are shown throwing mud at the police and taking the side of the terrorists. We must not forget that we live in times when if you are critical of those who deal with the terrorists in a manner not permitted by law you are seen as anti-national. The misunderstanding between Sanjay and his journalist wife Nandita takes a U turn and she suddenly sees a larger conspiracy being built against honest police officers. There is inevitable a case filed against the encounter leading to a court room drama which is reduced to a dramatic conflict between the lawyer Shailesh (Rajesh Sharma- and why that silly wig?) and Sanjay.
This is preceded by a chase hit and run between the police and two of the terrorists Tufail (Alok Pandey) and Sadiq (Niranjan Jadhav) who are on the run. After Tom and Jerry are exhausted, we move to the court room drama and the acquittal of the protagonist. There seems a veiled advocacy that the police are justified in taking the law into their own hands under the guise of the: your approach Vs our approach argument. All this could be fine if restricted to the dim lit environs of a theatre. The tragedy is when it spills into the polity and then the theory of Batla House takes a serious social consequence. The few footfalls suggest that the audience will take a while to accept the narrative. Hopefully it would reject the ideology even if it accepts the film.