With commercial hits emerging, Indian cinema is not ceasing in presenting hard-hitting true stories. We just saw The Kerala Story, the UK premiere of Siya, soon Scoop and now Sirf Ek Bandaa Kaafi Hai on ZEE5 Global. Interesting how all three of these contents are inspired by true stories where unassuming young women are catapulted to sinister realities and harsh circumstances. Perhaps it is high time that we as audiences are confronted with the bitter truths of society.
Bandaa garnered a standing ovation at New York Indian Film Festival. It revolves around a minor teenage girl Nu (Adrija Sinha), who decides to file an FIR against a so-called ‘God-man’ in the country for sexual assault and tackles the most dangerous people. Being plunged into a perilous world, a naive but clever lawyer PC Solanki (Manoj Bajpayee), also a strong Shiva devotee, becomes her refuge. Fighting for half a decade, he makes sure Nu gets justice.
Director Apoorv Singh Karki adapts a very subtle approach to presenting emotions and does not overboard. The dark gradient adds to the intensity of the story and a pending doom and gloom. The background score is equally engaging and soul-stirring. The visual representation of courts is realistic and authentic, not Bollywoodised or overdramatic.
Karki handles the subjects with sensitivity to both the survivor and religious community the ‘God-Man’ comes from. The film could’ve easily veered into becoming an anti-Hindu narrative, however, it does not. On the contrary, one feels enraged at how abusers adopt the guise of a saint to inflict pain and cause harm to others. Even in sequences where Nu describes her horrific ordeal, the writing is tactful. Every character, including the defence lawyer (played by Vipin Sharma), who while cross-examining the survivor, maintains tactfulness in asking the questions.
In fact, Bajpayee’s performance in the climax quotient is outstanding. The dialogue he says sets the record straight and gives goosebumps. Manoj is a phenomenal talent who raises the bar with each venture. Again, the writing deserves full appreciation as it defends Hinduism as a faith and does not allow it to be dragged due to corrupt individuals. The point is made loud and clear. This film is arguably a milestone for Manoj.
Surya Mohan Kulshreshtha’s performance as the antagonist is frighteningly convincing. His sheepish and piercing smile is haunting. Scenes of him peering behind the curtain during the trial are spine-chilling. Adrija is another powerful talent who captures the pain and resilience of a survivor with sheer integrity. Especially when it comes to her expressions and dialogue delivery.
Perhaps where the film falters is the weak screenplay, particularly during the second half. I feel that it drags and the slow-burning pace does not help at this point. It would’ve been ideal to see a more developed backdrop of how this trial takes a toll on the survivor’s family and even the principal villain’s story or his dominion is not elaborated either. I strongly feel the enhancements of both these aspects would’ve enriched the overall viewing experience.
On the whole, Sirf Ek Bandaa Kaafi Hai is a sensitive film handled carefully. I would even say it’s one of the best movies of 2023 so far. It requires courage and awareness which Apoorv competently displays. Although the technicalities could’ve been polished more to the T, the movie provides a window into society and how vicious individuals adapt religion to inflict pain. Manoj Bajpayee rests his case with a formidable act of a solicitor who fights for justice. A must-watch on ZEE5 Global.
.5 (3.5/5 stars)