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Batla House Movie Review: It Pierces A Slice Of Horrific History



Batla House

Starring  John Abraham, Mrunal Thakur

Directed  by Nikhil Advani

Rating: *****(5 stars)

 There is a strong  storm brewing in our deeply polarized  society . It’s not about the haves and have-nots any longer. It’s about ‘them’ and ‘us’. The Muslims under siege  since  terrorism  become tragically linked to one community, and the Hindus  the majority who  have suddenly become as  defensive and  aggressive as  the minorities,  are  no  longer hiding their mutual exclusive existence.  Isolation is  a given that  Batla House  tackles with  empathy and  virility.

And then there are  the  human rights  organizations baying for  blood each time the  blood of the perpetrators  of bloody violence is  shed .Nikhil Advani’s  powerful and tense  anti-terror drama captures the sweaty  self-preservation tactics  of  the Delhi cops  after the Batla House incident in  September 2008 when  some students  alleged to have terror links, were gunned down by  supercop Sanjay Kumar(John Abraham) and his dedicated  team who are thereafter accused of staging a fake  encounter killing innocent Muslim students.

Advani’s  narrative is  fraught  with smothered wrath. Though the  film finally cops-out and is forced into a corner   against  being judgmental  on the  sham/authenticity  of the ‘Batla’ encounter (we never really know where the  colour of guilt  shows its true colours)there is  no doubt  which side  the  film is on.

The  colour khaki forever  pressurized from both ends  by  the saffron and green brigade  gets a  big  21-gun salute in this  film celebrating the wounds of the law enrforcers that  never heal.There is a raw visceral hurt at the heart  of  this film. John Abraham as  the  cop-hero whose life is  caught in a web of terrorism and trauma is most effective when  communicating his character’s  disgust at redtapism.Watch his  face choke up  with  stifled  hatred while speaking to a fellow-cop who  openly sucks up to a politician.

This is  a man who can’t  tolerate  scummy slothful  behavior .  John is  growing progressively adept at portraying  the nation’s conscience .

Manish Chaudhary as  John’s  senior and Ravi Kissan as an oldworld colleague  who gets  killed, are  in fine  shape. But many of  the  supporting performances, including Mrunal Thakur  as  John’s  ever-whining matrimonial nemesis, suffer from  an absence  of intrinsic  vitality.In  fact the cop-hero’s  domestic life  needed more rigorous treatment.Instead, the scenes showing the  marital scuffles are repetitive and even trite and tiring.

“Our marriage is  breaking,” the wife screams at the very beginning as though a broken marriage was a teeshirt logo. We needed to be shown ,not told that.Luckily  the  scenes  showing  the cops in conflict with  disgruntled  elements on the simmering streets are  far less  bogged down by inept writing.

  The  scenes building up  a tension on the roads as  the  indignant  righteous  moral police explodes  against  the law enforcers, is shot with an eye for  authentic  immediacy and detailed fidelity. Saumik Mukherjee’s camera, constantly searching and prying,   doesn’t  lie still.  He explores the seething temperament  of  a nation on the edge with mounting tension lodged in  every frame.  Maahir Zaveri’s editing  knows when  to  hold back and when to let go. The narrative has a tactile freeflowing  rhythm to it. The action scenes build up a tempo organically. There is  no panic rush to get our attention.

The  courtroom  finale is  appropriately inconclusive  and  non-judgmental.

Batla House is  a film that  allows us the audience to come to our own conclusions about remedial  guilt and compromised  absolution. In not giving us a solution it provides the  best option to a society that clearly  doesn’t want to  learn from the lessons  served  up by history.

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