‘Batla House’ review: Where the truth lies

A still from ‘Batla House’.   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

“Shaque pe hai yaqeen to, yaqeen pe hai shaque mujhe, kis ka jhooth jhooth hai, kis ke sach main sach nahi.”

These lines from Vishal Bhardwaj’s Haider, talk about the essential opaqueness of a fraught situation and the inability to distinguish between certainties and doubts, and truth and falsehood. They might have applied to the Kashmir issue. But the words also lie at the heart of the Rashomon-like Batla House encounter case of September 2008. There has been the ‘encounter killing of terrorists’ angle of the cops as against the charges of staged killings, false implications and human rights violation by activists, NGOs and civil society groups. The National Human Rights Commission had given a clean chit to the police on the allegations of violation but the suspicions, conjectures and distrust about the case have not ceased till date.

Batla House
  • Director: Nikkhil Advani
  • Starring: John Abraham, Mrunal Thakur, Ravi Kishan, Nora Fatehi
  • Run time: 146.07 minutes
  • Storyline: The Batla House encounter case of 2008 told from the point of view of cop Sanjeev Kumar Yadav
  • Language: Hindi

The lack of comprehensibility and clarity could have made for a compelling thriller. However, the disclaimer from the makers, at the very start of the film, clearly states that it tells the story from the vantage point of the special cell DCP Sanjeev Kumar Yadav (John Abraham). So we know where it stands in terms of its interpretation of reality. Having said that, how does it go about portraying its own version of truth? In a needlessly convoluted and garbled manner.

There are two strands to the film — the track of a cop suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and his marriage on the brink of collapse running parallel to the police operative itself. The former is what one found interesting given its complexity and psychological dimension and the fact that it forces John Abraham to plumb the emotional depths that he normally doesn’t.

The means and methods of the police, however, seem utterly jerky, inept and at times, stupid to say the least. It all gets neatly wrapped up in a convenient climax after an item number by Nora Fatehi. Just when we thought item numbers were so boring and passé.

The binaries are not just maintained but reinforced. Anyone questioning the cops gets portrayed in a standard, clichéd, negative way, be it a nasty journalist, an opportunist politician (did I spot a P. Chidambaram lookalike?) a mean activist or the insensitive prosecution lawyer. The cops, however, are all bright, shining, virtuous icons of humanity. No wonder it’s for the good Hindu cop to tell the brainwashed, strayed Muslim youth the true meaning of the paak kitaab, i.e. the Quran, and the tenets of Islam. That too while wearing a green shirt.

Speaking of the visual symbols piling on, in yet another shot, we see what cop’s nightmares are made of — getting weighed down by a crowd of people wearing ominous skull caps. Is it any surprise then that the film also underscores the emerging narrative of the times, about the supposedly short-sighted ‘appeasement of the minorities’ approach of yore. Neither himayat (taking side), nor mukhalfat (opposing) of the qaum (community) is the prescribed way out. Alright then.

This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | May 5, 2021 12:36:23 AM |

Next Story