Dr Khusi Pattanayak

Sirf Ek Bandaa Kaafi Hai (Hindi, 2023) is a court room drama based on real-life incidents that has a powerful self-styled godman charged with POCSO (The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act) at the centre of things. Ideally a film like this should have had enough substance to keep one glued to the screen, but unfortunately the script is rather flat and straightforward for a legal drama that spans across 5 years.

Just last week, I had remarked how the simple story telling gave Kathal (Hindi) a certain freshness but here the same formula has a lacklustre appeal. Nevertheless, the movie has its own glorious moments. It is interesting to see how a film dealing with sexual crime relies neither on the perspective of the victim nor of the culprit to take the story forward; rather it chooses to tell the story as experienced by the lawyer who becomes the poster boy for all things honest and virtuous.

Kudos to the writer Deepak Kingrani (Special OPS) for retaining a restrained voice and not getting carried away into the realm of melodrama. The screenplay too deftly handles a sensitive issue with enough subtlety. I am not familiar with Apoorv Singh Karki’s previous works – Aspirants (2021), The Aam Aadmi Family (2016), Saas Bahu Achaar Pvt. Ltd. (2022) – but this film displays his competency as a director. Barring couple of actors in a blink and you miss roles, the casting (by Shivam Gupta) is spot-on; most of the actors deliver with an experienced finesse.

And that brings us to Manoj Bajpayee, the soul of the film, who eclipses everyone and everything including the script and his own previous performances! If Karki took the title of his movie Sirf Ek Bandaa Kaafi Hai too literally and relied entirely on the brilliance of Manoj Bajpayee to give shape, depth and direction to his movie, then he was right. Bajpayee is the sole reason you remain invested in the tale. Bajpayee gives the god-fearing religious PC, who fights the godman and his influential legal representatives, a credible presence. He is not a superhuman but a competent lawyer with a conscience.

But this not sufficient to keep the momentum going. The film falters mainly because of its inability to provide curiosity and tension, a prerequisite for any script (irrespective of genre). It must be kept in mind that since the film is based on a high-profile case most of the film goers are familiar with the proceedings. They have a general understanding of the course of events. It would have been better if the script had provided some lesser-known details and on-the-edge moments.

It is a good versus bad movie where good prevails over the bad. The film is so lopsided that it barely shows any interest in letting the main accused speak (his legal aid and support group does it on his behalf) and forces the bad guys to fall back upon few formulaic means to make their presence felt. As is, the film is two-dimensional and episodic.

Watch Sirf Ek Bandaa Kaafi Hai over the weekend on ZEE5 only and only if you are a Manoj Bajpayee fan.

(The author is an internationally published writer & corporate communication specialist. Views are personal)


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