After an extended disclaimer in the beginning comes yet another assertion close to the film. In a crucial court scene, most likely thanks to the court’s intervention, runs a denial as to how the makers do not side with either viewpoint. But make no mistake the film’s heart beats for its lead protagonist DCP Sanjeev Kumar Yadav (John Abraham) the man behind the (in)famous Batla House encounter. The din over whether it was fake or not has been resounding ever since and despite reports clearing the officials involved Chinese whispers have not died down. Now the debate is being carried onscreen.
Sure enough, the question mark over the manner in which the operation took place in 2008 is dealt with from the word go. But if you think the director seeming to handle the bull by its horns is giving you yet another balanced perspective you couldn’t be more wrong. The ensuing controversy, the protests and political interference has since cast its looming shadow over the incident in which India lost one of its decorated officers.
The loss (with a name change Ravi Kishan steps up to play the martyred officer) is drubbed in time and again to build up the vantage point empathetic to the police force. Indian Mujahideen the name figures as it is. But there is no attempt to delve into the mind of the terrorists.
Depending upon your politics you would agree or disagree with the premise and the final directorial statement. You may see it as yet another step fuelling Islamophobia. Or quite simply as mission against terror. But in purely cinematic terms, Nikkhil Advani who has given us some biting edge of the seat thriller as in Rishi Kapoor starrer D Day does seem to be a tad heavy footed.
Especially in the first half and also due to the fact that camera pans on the protests a trifle too much. Sure officers even the much lauded ones not only come in the line of fire but also face a lot of flak while doing their duty.
At times there is an overreach too and John’s character does admit, “Yes, there are occasions when we plant guns too to gain conviction.” But on Batla Encounter there is little ambiguity. And surprisingly while most Hindi films suffer from post intermission syndrome, this one gets better in the second half. There is greater engagement both with the plot and John’s character who gets to mouth some home truths too. John carries his part with conviction and ease. While you can’t quite feel deeply enough for his post-traumatic stress disorder or his floundering relationship with his journalist wife (Mrunal Thakur looks lovely).
However, you do relate to him as an officer struggling to grapple with anomalies that are beset in the system. That police might be a cog in the same is a thought that film doesn’t quite entertain. The so called other point of view shown through the arguments of counsel (Rajesh Sharma) appears too bizarre to merit credibility.
But when it states police is not an enemy of terrorists (read a particular community), only out to eliminate terror, the not so sceptical are likely to nod. If you are okay with the clean chit (to the police) which by the way was given by the NHRC too, the film does make the watchable grade, even as you miss the deft touch Advani is so capable of.
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