Cast: Rajshri Deshpande, Abhay Deol, Ashish Vidyarthi, Shilpa Shukla, Anupam Kher, Ratna Pathak Shah, Shardul Bharadwaj & ensemble.
Creator: Kevin Luperchio & Prashant Nair.
Director: Prashant Nair, Randeep Jha & Avani Deshpande.
Streaming On: Netflix.
Language: Hindi (with subtitles).
Runtime: 7 Episodes Around 45 Minutes Each.
Trial By Fire Review: What’s It About:
The year is 1997, India is on the verge of celebrating 50 years of its independence and to mark the same Bollywood has released one of its most cult films, Border. New Delhi’s Uphaar Cinema owners decided to flood their theatre with the audience to earn money and forget to add safety. The cinema hall catches fire killing several audience members. A couple, Neelam & Shekhar Krishnamoorthy set out to seek justice for their dead children smelling foul play.
Trial By Fire Review: What Works:
Before you get on board Trial By Fire or even if you don’t (an option you must not prefer), go online and try to read a bit about this haunting incident which is in the court of law to date and the last hearing dates January 11, 2023, yes, 2 days ago. Uphaar cinema had a technical malfunction in the morning but they sabotaged it with minor repairs. The malfunction led to a massive fire in a cinema hall that had people more than its capacity with no safety measures, cardboards in place of exhaust vents, and doors to balcony seats locked to serve the VIP guest. It took the courts 25 years to sentence the Ansal brothers, owners of the property, to a 7-year jail in 2021, reduced to 6 months. One of the brothers now seeks to retain his passport.
The heinous nature of this incident keeps taking tragic twist after twists and the dirty politics behind a ticket the audience bought that day unfolds piece by piece. Amid all this is a grieving couple who have lost their two children to the tragedy. A 17-year-old daughter and an almost 14-year-old son. Based on the book by same name written by Neelam and Shekhar Krishnamoorthy , the Netflix show is a haunting immersive visual retelling of the tragic incident and the aftermath where the parents are fighting for two and a half decade to give their dead children justice and also make sure nothing of this nature happens ever again. There is heartache, grief, and the search for redemption, but on top of that there is hope that never dies.
Written for the screen by Kevin and Prashant, Trial By Fire follows a blueprint where you first see the aftermath and the reason by the end. It is serious, haunting, and borderline dark in nature with no breather at point. And every bit of that sentence is justified because the subject matter is such that there is no scope for light because the Krishnamoorthy have been in the dark for years and the fact that families are devastated on a day they thought they might enjoy a much celebrated film itself can’t have light moments. What one must notice is the lack of melodrama and for all the good reasons. You are never really shown an outburst from either the mother or the father (barring one time each which has a very long lasting impact). Their way of grieving is not voicing it but giving themselves a purpose.
The tone of the show is as dark as it gets because the writing decides to enter multiple houses that have lost their members and also the houses of the ones responsible. A man loses 7 of his family members including a 6-month-old granddaughter. He now has no money to cremate them. His neighbours come together to help him. Like wise the show also highlights the electrician who did the temporary repairing that morning. It cleverly highlights both sides of the coins because they both are just pawns to the powerful men who are eating off their existence.
It’s a story that took place 26 years ago but the visual retelling is still relevant in today’s time. The carelessness of the people in power. The corrupt hierarchy of the government offices, or just the lack of empathy in the social DNA. If you are a parent this show might be hard to sit through, even if you aren’t, this one will be heavy on you because there is ultimate grief and there is a couple with a permanently altered family living that very void for 26 long years.
Trial By Fire Review: Star Performance:
This is one of the toughest casting coupes one can pull off. It is casting actors to enact people who are alive and still fighting the battle that the said actors are about to live in front of the camera. Rajshri Deshpande is a performer that is blessed with the art of being minimal but conveying the maximum. Her outbursts aren’t visual like the ones we are used too, they are controlled yet effective and you feel them to the core.
Abhay Deol has a character that is supposed to grieve and yet hold the castle from falling too. The actor does his job so well, that at no point he looks like an actor playing a character. He blends himself in Shekhar so well. The first thing that he has to do is shed all the vanity he is known for on Instagram and be an actor who is vulnerable. It is visible.
Rest everyone does what they know best and supports the show.
Trial By Fire Review: What Doesn’t Work:
While everything is as immersive as it can be, there are two half baked story lines that serve the purpose but don’t really fit into the puzzle in an organic way. The story is the electrician played by Rajesh Tailang gets a parallel plot which serves the larger picture but seems off track at large.
Same goes with Ratna Pathak Shah and Anupam Kher’s storyline that is just present to add an emotional aspect to the narrative but goes nowhere beyond that.
Trial By Fire Review: Last Words:
Trial By Fire is difficult to watch if you are sensitive but a very important conversation. Do not give this a miss because it isn’t just a show.
For more, read our Physics Wallah Review here.
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