Sirf Ek Bandaa Kaafi Hai Review: The complex relationship between godmen and blind followers is a tale as old as time. These ‘extraordinary’ beings, in all their flowing robes, have convinced their followers that they possess divine wisdom and mystical powers. Sirf Ek Bandaa Kaafi Hai puts these followers in the spotlight and treads the fine line of where blind faith meets questionable intentions.
The film opens with a jittery young girl stepping into a Delhi Police Station, accompanied by her parents. The girl, all of 16 (as of 2013) was sexually assaulted at an ashram in Jodhpur under the garb of freeing her of ‘supernatural forces’. An FIR is lodged against the film’s godman, thereafter referred to as Baba, under the POCSO Act, 2012. He’s swiftly arrested and granted 15 days of police custody.
A ray of hope emerges in the form of PC Solanki, a selfless advocate in Jodhpur who is driven by compassion and justice. In a world where the mighty hold absolute power without question, he sets out for the truth. The audience is taken on a rollercoaster ride, replete with small victories, big setbacks, ruthless acts of violence and an indomitable quest for justice. In Sirf Ek Bandaa Kaafi Hai, director Apoorv Singh Karki takes on a system that is susceptible to manipulation by the powerful. A world that is tough to look at, but tougher to look away from.
The murder of key witnesses – one is shot from point-blank range, another is hung from a bridge — sets the pace for a gritty drama that relies heavily on the nitty-gritty of the law. High-profile lawyers come and go as the case oscillates between the Sessions Court that deals with hard evidence and the Supreme Court that deals with the Baba’s sudden neurological condition and the victim’s age to determine whether or not she’s a minor.
The film delves into the dark underbelly of those in power, exposing the uncertainties that come with it, but the taut screenplay doesn’t allow the relentless tragedies to overwhelm the audience at any point. It comes with all the quintessential elements of a Bollywood courtroom drama — the dramatic desk banging, the eventual breakdown of a hostile witness and the witty legal banter — and fits into the mould completely.
Adrija Sinha shines as the victim, Nu. She does most of the talking merely through her eyes and is convincing as a young girl whose spiritual beliefs have been shattered and her right to life, violated. She breaks down at times but continues to hold her own in a courtroom where uncomfortable questions flow, serving as painful reminders of a trauma that remains fresh even as years go by. However, her struggles, as she coped with the aftermath of the horror, deserved more screen time.
Vipin Sharma slips into the role of the defence lawyer with ease. Every supporting actor performs convincingly, regardless of the length of the role. Surya Mohan Kulshreshtha, as the accused Baba, forms the crux of the story. He looks menacingly convincing as he draws the curtains at the courtroom, momentarily, to get a clearer view of his future, only to retreat into the shadows when things start to go awry. His frustration grows as years go by, and is conveyed through just his broody but guiltless eyes.
I’ve saved Manoj Bajpayee for the last. He brings his remarkable acting skills to the forefront and effortlessly steps into the shoes of advocate PC Solanki, who always tries to do the right thing. Standout scenes include one where a starstruck Solanki runs after a renowned advocate for a selfie and one in which he praises his opposing lawyer with a genuine “Kya khel rahe ho.” His endearing conversations with the son he affectionately calls Buddy and his mother leave one warm and fuzzy. Moments where he offers support to Nu, as she goes through grief and fury, too, catch the eye. The accent feels thick at times but is overshadowed by his acting prowess.
The authenticity of the story remains largely intact and the dramatic background score by Sandip Chowta (whose oeuvre includes Satya, Asoka, Om Shanti Om and more) makes sure that a sense of foreboding lingers in the air at all times. Writer Deepak Kingrani skilfully tackles the sensitive issue of sexual assault. Triggering visuals are kept to a minimum and are handled delicately.
The film is never for a second, boring. The complex courtroom drama that borrows much from true-life events will keep you on the edge of your seat. Don’t miss it.
Sirf Ek Bandaa Kaafi Hai streams on Zee5 starting May 23.