Trial By Fire (Netflix,7 Episodes)
Directed by Prashant Nair, Randeep Jha, Avani Nair
This is not a series. It is a piece of history regurgitated into a meticulously re-designed eyewitness account of what happened on 13 June 1997 when Delhi’s Uphaar cinema went up in flames extinguishing the joy and wellbeing of several families who lost their near and dear ones in the tragedy.
This series recreates the long and endless legal battle of a couple Shekhar and Neelam Krishnamoorthy who lost both children in the Uphaar cinema fire while watching J P Dutta’s Border.
The battle is long. But the couple’s patience, especially Neelam’s , is unlimited. This is the story of resilience determination and obstinacy , so real so tangible you can feel the pain of the couple every step along their painful battle. It won’t be wrong to say the couple fought their own war as fiercely as the soldiers seen in Border.
Rajshri Deshpande and Abhay Deol are pitch-perfect. The series creates a credible ambience around the couple. The time leaps for eighteen years(yes, that’s how long the Krishnamoorthy’s legal battle has gone on) are achieved with the least amount of fuss. Blessedly we don’t hear songs from every phase in the couple’s legal battle playing in the background.
But yes, the anthemic song from J P Dutta’s Border does play a vital part in the articulate sound design…Or maybe ‘design’ is not the word I am looking for. Nothing in this series seems designed. There is flow of inevitability about the proceedings. Of course this is all preordained since it is a scrupulous recreation of actual facts. But the series never feels it is indebted to facts. Rather, facts flow freely and fluently into storytelling.
Even the fictional moments (like the electrician Veer Singh played Rajesh Tailang and his wife Sarla, played by Kiran Sharma, having frantic sex after he returns home from prison, or a gay couple holding hands at the catastrophic first-day screening of Border) seem to be intimately interwoven into the plot.
On the minus side: too many characters which are either ill-formed or dangerously sidestepped . Neelam and Shekhar’s neighbour played by Shilpa Shukla is around for no particular reason. Anupam Kher and Ratna Pathak Shah as a retired army officer and his wife struggle to make their presence felt.
Many capable actors like Ashish Vidyarthi, Nimisha Nair, Shardul Bhardwaj, and Siddharth Bhardwaj try hard to justify their presence in the plot. But this is really not about them. It is about the Krishnamoorthys , and Rajshri Deshpande and Abhay Deol are as credible as any two capable actors can get given the tragic circumstances.