Manoj Bajpayee’s exceptional act uplifts this nuanced courtroom drama directed by Apoorv Singh Karki.
Sirf Ek Bandaa Kaafi Hai trailer
Last Updated: 07.41 AM, May 22, 2023
Loosely “inspired by true events,” Sirf Ek Bandaa Kaafi Hai chronicles the five-year-long journey and courtroom battle of an ordinary High Court Lawyer – Poonam Chand Solanki (essayed by Manoj Bajpayee) – against one of the most followed and powerful godmen in the country. The godman (played by Surya Mohan Kulshreshtha) is charged under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act of 2012 (POCSO) and arrested after a 16-year-old girl, Nu Singh (played by Adrija Roy) files an FIR against him for sexually assaulting her. The film details the trials and tribulations of Solanki and Nu in their fight for justice against the perpetrators who often escape punishment by law because of their position of power.
With Sirf Ek Bandaa Kaafi Hai, Director Apoorv Singh Karki brings to your screens a highly engaging and captivating courtroom drama sans the heightened theatrics that usually form a typical legal procedural film. You’d be living under a rock if you’re still unaware that Bandaa is based on the 2013 case where Asaram Bapu was accused and convicted of raping a minor. Except for the name of the lawyer – PC Solanki – all the other names have been changed in the film.
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Movies based on real-life incidents and court proceedings, especially when dealing with an act like POCSO, run the risk of becoming preachy and exhausting with too many explanations as the average viewer isn’t really aware of the technicalities of law. Thankfully, writer Deepak Kingrani steers away from the same and manages to effectively balance the script, even as he closely follows the statements of the real PC Solanki during the various hearings of the trial.
One of the many areas where the film really shines is the gripping writing and taut direction. The makers waste no time and come straight to the point within the first 10 minutes of the film. Right from the instance where Nu Singh and her parents go to the police station to register the complaint, till the verdict is announced, the film demands your attention and keeps you hooked.
A lot of the credit for the same goes to the way several scenes have been written. While it’s easy to fall into the trap and sensationalize the issue at hand in a film like this but kudos to the makers that they manage to captivate you without resorting to such means and methods. Instead, they treat the subject with utmost sensitivity and empathy, while sticking to facts and letting the actors do the heavy lifting with their delicate but highly effective performances.
The film is a masterclass in how a well-researched, nuanced courtroom drama is done right. Whether it’s a scene involving the breakdown of a witness or Solanki’s arguments on why POCSO is applicable in the case – every little detail has been highlighted without making them preachy. The climax scene that ends with Bajpayee’s closing statement with a short mythological story involving the three categories of sins and why Ravana’s sin of abducting Seeta in Ramayana doesn’t deserve to be even considered for atonement, will surely invite claps from the audience. It is one of the finest written monologues in recent times, elevated further by the delivery of Bajpayee.
There are so many scenes that make you marvel at the actor par excellence that Manoj Bajpayee is. Watch out for the scenes where Bajpayee’s Solanki ends up fanboying after his opponent and asks for a selfie, or where he’s being chased by potential attackers in the narrow lanes of Jodhpur, or when he’s talking to Nu, trying to warn her about the soul-crushing questions that may be asked in the courtroom and at the same time giving her the strength to remain strong.
It’s evident that Bajpayee has invested a lot of time in internalizing the traits of the lawyer and his struggles through the five-year-long trial. Even though there’s a lot at stake here, he doesn’t go over the top, neither does he become overly emotional. His character is a disciple of Lord Shiva but is a man of the law. He is god-fearing but also understands that faith can never surpass the law. He’s been in the system long enough to know the kind of hurdles that await him, the victim, and her family, and the way he explains the same to the girl’s parents in a heart-wrenching scene is truly brilliant. Bajpayee’s earnest and sensitive portrayal of Solanki will surely go down as one of his most cherished performances.
Even though, Bandaa is pretty much a one-man show, courtesy Bajpayee, the supporting cast too does a fine job within the scope of their respective characters. Vipin Sharma plays a worthy opponent to Bajpayee and their equation both within and outside the courtroom also becomes one of the highlights. At the end of the day, both of them are simply trying to do their job. Jai Hind Kumar and Durga Sharma as Nu’s parents fit the role well. Surya Mohan Kulshreshtha barely gets any dialogue, especially after the first 15-20 minutes or so, but he does a fine job even with his glimpses and empty stares devoid of any remorse throughout the film. It is Adrija Roy’s portrayal of Nu that truly shines, even in front of an ace actor like Bajpayee. Even though her face remains covered through most of the film, her dialogue delivery through moist eyes is so on point that you don’t miss seeing her facial expressions.
The background score too complements the narrative well, without even once overpowering the dialogues or trying to ‘make you feel’ a certain way. The songs and music by Sangeet-Siddharth and Roy are passable but weren’t really necessary. In the second half, the film does seem to drag on for a bit. The length of the film could have easily been brought down by about 8-10 minutes. Also, at some junctures, the dubbing seems to be a bit off and you can clearly make out that the lip-syncing of the characters is different from the dialogues you hear. But these are minor hiccups that should be overlooked in favour of the immaculate storytelling and exceptional performances by the cast.
Sirf Ek Bandaa Kaafi Hai is uplifted by Manoj Bajpayee’s exceptional act. It is a nuanced and highly engaging courtroom drama that should not be missed!
(All images, unless mentioned otherwise, via YouTube/Screengrab)