Movie Name: Batla House
Cast: John Abraham, Mrunal Thakur
Director: Nikkhil Advani
Between 2005 and 2008, the ISI and its catspaw the Lakshkar-e-Taiba (LeT) set up a local ‘franchise’ to outsource terrorism. The franchise, the Indian Mujahideen (IM) and headed by the Bhatkal brothers, Riyaz and Yasin carried out a wave of bombings across India. The IM in turn, recruited disgruntled local youth to plant bombs in public spaces in Jaipur, Ahmedabad, Varanasi, Delhi and Hyderabad killing hundreds of civilians. The bombings halted when the IM terror cell was busted in Batla House after the deaths of two terror suspects and a police officer. This is the context for what is arguably the first mainstream film to look at this forgotten piece of recent history.
Bollywood’s quest for real life drama knocks at the door of Batla House. The film finds its protagonist in ACP Sanjeev Kumar Yadav (John Abraham) a real life key figure in the Delhi Police’s special cell.
The movie opens on September 19, 2008. The ACP’s marriage to TV anchor Nandita (Mrunal Thakur) is on the rocks. It is also the day when his sleuths, hot on the trail of the IM bombers, stumbles on a terror cell in the eponymous house in the national capital. Two IM terrorists are killed in the exchange of fire in which a key special cell officer KK (Ravi Kishan) is killed and ACP Kumar left to face the music.
As the probe into the encounter gets underway, political sharks smell blood and start circling the troubled waters. ACP Kumar is hobbled by ‘I see dead people’ post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). He has to save his marriage, solve the case, deliver a spiel against Islamist radicalisation and outwit wily defence attorney Rajesh Sharma (in a hideous barrister’s wig) in the courtroom showdown. This burden of mainstream commercial Bollywood expectations weighs down the narrative and sinks what could have been a tight police procedural. Batla House could have been a sniper rifle which instead ends up as a blunderbuss.
Director Nikkhil Advani’s return to the gangster-terrorist thriller genre after his 2013 D-Day, starts on a promising note, but then tires itself out by meandering across the countryside. Not in the least bit because it features an item number. Because there’s always room for an item song in a terrorist chase.
The movie ran into a spot of pre-release controversy because the Batla House case where a sessions court pronounced a verdict in 2013, is still under appeal. The film begins with a lengthy disclaimer and incorporates some court-directed modifications. It is unclear how they altered the narrative, but they couldn’t have been substantial.
Very clearly, the film is a John Abraham star vehicle. Yet, the only reason the actor towers over the movie, Thanos-like, is because the film lacks a memorable supporting cast. Neither the policemen, nor the brainwashed terrorists nor the lawyers. Not one of these characters develop over the film’s five-year timespan. The camaraderie among the policemen is absent. The marital tension is unconvincing. The premise for the ACP’s post traumatic stress disorder is implausible. His mental health issues are hurriedly resolved in a single session with a psychiatrist.
The protagonist, as we always know, is never in any real danger of losing either his job or credibility because the film clearly establishes the sequence of events early on. The Rashomon Effect, contradictory interpretations of a single event, is only introduced towards the end. By then, the film’s conclusion is like most other police encounters. Fairly predictable.
Source By Indiatoday