Streaming on Netflix 13th January 2023
Stories based on real life incidents can make for an immersive experience whether it is a movie or web series. Prashant Nair and Randeep Jha’s Trial By Fire looks at a fire incident that broke out in Uphaar Cinema hall of Delhi. This fire incident took the lives of 59 innocent people. The movie playing at that time was JP Dutta’s border. However zero accountability was seen from the culprits of this man made tragedy. The major culprits were the Ansal brothers. The Ansal brothers not only owned the Uphaar Cinema but also half of Delhi’s infrastructure in the late nineties. Among the victims the main focus is on Neelam and Shekhar Krishnamurthy (Rajshri Deshpande and Abhay Deol).
Trial By Fire is inspired from a memoir of the same name. The series begins with the day of tragedy and how nothing is going to be the same. We see how Neelam and Shekhar stand united in spite of a long and uncertain journey for justice. The plot alternates between a personal tragedy and systemic negligence. The first two episodes focus on the pattern of events and the director duo give a clear indication of how this is going to be an uphill task. From the third equal focus is given on the supporting characters that have also lost their loved ones in the fire accident.
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First and foremost Trail By Fire is not for those who want escapism. This is a serious subject with no scope for entertainment. The director duo of Prashant Nair and Randeep Jha do a fantastic job of not making it melodramatic at any point. The struggles of Neelam and Krishnamurthy are presented in a realistic manner without resorting to bombastic dialogues. The climax also goes perfectly with the tone of the show.
As audiences you not only root for them as mother and father but also as husband and wife. A major reason for that is the sensitivity with which Prashant and Randeep have portrayed them.
Another good thing about show is the way the parallel storylines have been integrated. One of my favorite subplots is that of a retired army officer (Anupam Kher) and his wife played by Ratna Pathal Shah. Another track worthy of mention is Ashish Vidyarthi who is a dry fruit merchant. All these stories are well woven and find a perfect culmination.
The etching of Neelam and Shekhar is another major plus of the series. As Neelam Rajshri Deshpande often uses silences to convey her grief. On more than one occasion she uses subtle gestures to express frustration. Neelam is a disappointed and broken mother however underneath that a fierce mother is still there. All this has been brought out well by the actress.
As Krishnamurthy Abhay Deol does some of his best work after a long time. He makes for a terrific spouse who stands by his wife through thick and thin. He has his moments of occasional outburst and the actor does complete justice to them.
A scene which has to be particularly mentioned here is when the Krishnamurthy’s visit their relatives after several years. There is a visible pain in the eyes of the couple upon seeing the relatives children all grown up and doing well for themselves. The feeling of how the Krishnamurthy’s could have also had the same joy strikes the audiences in a big way.
The likes of Anupam Kher and Ashish Vidyarthi are veterans who don’t need a specific introduction. They do justice to their parts as expected.
In a nutshell Trial By Fire isn’t an easy watch but this is a show which needs to be seen. Watch it particularly if you are a fan of realistic storytelling.