Movie Review | ‘Trial by fire’ has fire in its belly

As you finish watching this brilliant piece that chronicles the two-decade-long fight of distraught parents who lost their both children in the Uphaar Fire Tragedy, the first and only word that comes to your mind is, “incredible.”

Human tragedies are most potent when they are told with the utmost sensitivity, maturity, and clarity. Aptly titled ‘Trial by Fire’ is just that.

The series on Netflix is based on a book by Neelam and Shekhar Krishnamoorthy who decided to take on this corrupt, Himalayan system to bring the preparators of the crime to justice.

Neelam is played by Rajshri Deshpande and Shekhar by Abhay Deol. If there ever was an award for casting, then it has to go to the casting director of this series. Both Rajshri and Neelam bring in the necessary tenderness and assertiveness to let us know what it means not to give up.

Their indomitable spirit leads to the formation of an association seeking justice with the duo at the forefront. Cutting across the labyrinth of red tape they even get involved in gathering evidence to bolster their claim that Ansals, the super-rich and all-powerful owners of the cinema hall, need to be held accountable for the death of 59 people.

Their arduous journey continues for over twenty years and in the end, it proves to be futile from a conventional point of view. Still, not the ones to give up so easily, they pick up the pieces and restart their fight.

Spread over just seven episodes, the tightly edited series is around eight hours long. Each episode is a masterpiece and textbook in acting, writing, direction, cinematography, and performance. The last episode in which the tragedy is shown unfolding is outstanding. No gore, yet compelling.

Not even for a minute the Krishnamoorthys lose sight of their goal. Similarly, not even for a second does the rock-solid direction by Prashant Nair and Randeep Jha lose its focus.

Thankfully, there have been no attempts to muddle the narrative with unnecessary subplots though there are a few hiccups. Rajshri and Abhay have ensured that there are no histrionics, only real and genuine emotions are displayed as the grief-stricken parents. You feel their pain and angst when we have their close-ups. Just by emoting they express and ensure that not a single eye is left dry among the audience.

Just look at Rajshri’s close-ups. Or the court scene in which the Ansals’ lawyer tries to frame her. Or the scene in which she talks about what is it like to not have justice even after a relentless fight of years together. Not a single frown on her face, the voice is not raised even by a single decibel than normal, and yet she makes her point. Her portrayal of Neelam ought to go down as one of the best ever. From anger to anguish, she has successfully conveyed everything.

The brilliance of the writing of Prashant Nair and Kevin Luperchio can be understood from the fact the antagonists, the Ansals, are actually never shown. Yet thanks to the prowess of the pen, we as an audience hate them for their villainy. Thanks to an outstanding direction, mundane scenes between Neelam and Shekhar too win your heart. Check out the cake scene in which they are trying to hide the pre-ordered cake from each other.

Unfortunately, the Krishnamoorthys here do not win. But the Netflix series ‘Trial by Fire’ is an out-and-out winner. Makers of ‘Trial by Fire’, take a bow. You have given us the first and by far the best homegrown series on a human tragedy which unfolds twice, first when it actually happens and then when the parents set out to seek justice.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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