Manoj Bajpayee looms tall in Sirf Ek Bandaa Kaafi Hai  

Manoj Bajpayee towers in the otherwise average courtroom drama, Sirf Ek Bandaa Kaafi Hai. Photo: Trailer Video Grab 

In this age of bolder cinema, it is no longer mandatory to have a co-star of the opposite gender if the protagonist is male or female. No explanations are thus provided for why small-town (and small-time) lawyer P.C. Solanki (Manoj Bajpayee) is a single parent to cute little son (Gauransh Sharma) and lives also with his mother (Veena Mehta).

Introduced as a rather religious and morally-rich man (he is praying in his first shot), he is hired by the impoverished but determined parents (portrayed with apt excellence by Durga Sharma and Jai Hind Kumar) to represent their 17 year-old daughter Nu Singh (Adrija Sinha), who is the victim of a god-man (Surya Mohan Kulshreshtha)’s lust.

In court, as the cops (happily shown here as incorruptible and determined) bring in the culprit, counsels are changed on both sides. Finding that he has been sold out to Baba and his coterie, Nu’s parents ditch their previous lawyer and appoint Solanki, who agrees to fight the tough hi-fi case for a significant fee: a smile from “Gudiya (doll)”, as he calls the girl!

Meanwhile, Baba changes many lawyers, even hi-profile ones like Ram Chandwani (Abhijit Lahiri) and Swami (a terrific actor), all of whom try to get him bail on technical and manipulated grounds. His regular lawyer is the slimy Sharma (Vipin Sharma), who does everything he can to get results.

This time, there are no corrupt politicians either, just a school principal who has been bought out (Archana Dani, with the unlikely Maharashtrian identity of a Mrs. Bapat in a Rajasthan school!). Archana acts brilliantly in her sole sequence. Her felonies are mysteriously overlooked by the court, which is one over-simplification.

Four witnesses are murdered, and an attempt to hurt or intimidate Solanki himself is shown, but not one person talks of this during the trial, not even the police, who must be investigating these killings! Primarily, the trial sequences focus on Baba’s bail being repeatedly denied even in a higher court. The details of the actual prosecution versus defense arguments seem to be largely glossed over!

A ridiculous element is of introducing a hyped but relatively innocuous medical condition, Trigeminal Neuralgia (which even Salman Khan suffered from in real life), as a “life-threatening ailment that needs foreign medical assistance”! Since this is a condition affecting the fifth cranial nerve that deals mainly with the face, it can be treated by any Indian dental surgeon. Such poor research was not expected here.

There are other fake elements of thrill, like Baba’s men bike-chasing Solanki, his son going “missing” and the patently imaginary sequence in which Solanki is shot dead. Then there is the incongruous part about Baba’s devotees cheering Baba all through (the case goes on for five years!) and suddenly the town is celebrating his arrest and Solanki’s triumph after Baba is sentenced!

All these points rapidly pull down a film that also has little by way of “must-haves” for courtroom dramas—dramatic twists, thrills and edge-of-the-seat surprises—halfway through the 127-minute movie, we have realized that Solanki will come out on top of every situation, however challenging. Unlike other courtroom dramas (the last being the excellent series Criminal Justice and Guilty Minds and the brilliant but commercially unsuccessful 2019 movie, Section 375), it has little drama to offer.

The film is a clever dramatization of the real-life Asaram Bapu case with PC Solanki’s name as prosecuting lawyer retained, though at one point, the lawyer here screams that he is merely P.C. Solanki and not Poonam Chand when addressed by a colleague. The actual lawyer has sent a legal notice to the producers about his issues with them!

Where the film scores in its dry script is in the climactic parable told by Solanki to the court and his passionate demand for death penalty to the offending godman, who misused religion to commit his foul deeds. The dialogues in general are relatable and lifelike, and the contrast between Solanki and the godman’s outlook on religion is subtly shown. I liked the sequences between Solanki and the girl, Solanki and his mother, and Solanki and the girl’s parents. The courtroom battles, early on, as said above, became predictable, except in the ‘how’ of Solanki upstaging the opposite counsel. And we did not see anything of the interaction between Solanki and Sharma outside the court as they are shown as friends! Surely, in suich cases, things can get personal to diverse extents!

Ikhlaque Ahmed Khan as the judge and Kaustav Sharma as Solanki’s assistant act commendably, and Surya Mohan Kulshreshtha as Baba has a lot to do by way of facial expressions and does it all effectively. Adrija Sinha as Nu delivers a flawlessly accomplished performance, especially when she is grilled by the defense lawyer.

Yes, Manoj Bajpayee gives this film his all, and I give an extra star to this movie only and purely because of his dazzling performance, especially in the sparklingly small but vital nuances he imparts to his simple, small-town, sincere character. Remove this actor and his “closing arguments” on the day the judgment is delivered and the film is below-par.

The direction is good in general except for the shortcomings in the script, Technically decent, the film has unobtrusive background music (Sandeep Chowta), which means a plus (for that’s how BGM should be), and a Sonu Nigam-rendered title-song (written by two lyricists!) that tries to impress.

Just like the film.

Rating: *** (one star exclusively for Manoj, as stated above) 

ZEE5 presents Bhanushali Studios’ & Zee Studios’ Sirf Ek Bandaa Kaafi Hai  Produced by: Vinod Bhanushali, Kamlesh Bhanushali, Vishal Gurnani, Juhi Prakash Mehta & Asif Shaikh Directed by: Directed by: Apoorv Singh Karki Written by:Deepak Kingrani Music: Sangeet & Siddhath Haldipur & Roy Starring: Manoj Bajpayee, Adrija Sinha, Surya Mohan Kulshreshtha, Durga Sharma, Jai Hind Kumar, Abhijit Lahiri, Saurabh Sharma, Archana Dani, Ikhlaque Ahmed Kaustav Sharma, Priyanka Setia, Manish Mishra, Shivraj Walvekar, Gauransh Sharma, Veena Mehta, Vishwatmika Dixit & others







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