Courtroom dramas carry their weight when it comes to storytelling and the authenticity surrounding it. Filmmakers and writers should present the narrative in such a manner that it does not become too loud at any given point in the story. Hindi cinema itself has delivered some interesting courtroom dramas in the past. We have had Pink, Mulk, Section 375, and No One killed Jessica, and most of these courtroom dramas have resonated with the audience for the kind of subject they dealt with and how it was presented to the audience. Sirf Ek Bandaa Kaafi Hai, which translates to only one person is enough, is loosely based on true events. Directed by Apoorv Singh Karki, the movie is all about a molestation case filed against a renowned godman by a minor and the long, strenuous battle they fight to make sure the accused is found guilty.
Set in 2013, Sirf Ek Bandaa Kaafi Hai begins with a girl named Nu filing a molestation case against a godman at a local police station in Delhi. Nu is joined by her parents as she is a minor, and they are supportive of her decision. As the case is filed, there is an army of supporters of this godman who try to stall the arrest. The arrest takes place in Jodhpur, Rajasthan, by the Delhi police, and the godman is sent behind bars in no time under the POCSO Act of 2012. The trial begins in the city, followed by the media hounding both the accused and the victim relentlessly. A high-profile case such as this one always ends up in favor of the powerful. Nu and her family, on the other hand, are hoping for some justice for the ordeal the young girl was put through. Unfortunately, the prosecution lawyer assigned to them turns out to be a stooge of the godman. This forces Nu’s family to hire another lawyer from Jodhpur, Poonam Chand Solanki, aka PC Solanki. The man is known to have worked on many cases that pertain to the POCSO Act, and he soon begins his fight to give Nu the justice she deserves.
The film began with a righteous impact, with a young girl and her parents already standing up against the powerful by filing a case, even if they knew a lot of things might not go their way. The intensity, fear, and anxiety were just right in the beginning, but all of this just fizzled out as the story moved forward. Since the story of this film is based on true events, we will not question how true the facts presented in the film are to the actual events. A court drama surrounding a sensitive crime has to be with the right intensity. Not that anybody would want theatrics, but overall, this film lacked punch. The screenplay, after a point, became a ping-pong match between the prosecution and the defense lawyer. The story jumps across three places in the country: Madhya Pradesh, Delhi, and Jodhpur, but the narrative kept juggling between the three places, which slightly created confusion in the screenplay and was evident on screen.
None of the dialogue, except the last monologue given by PC Solanki, left any deep impact. Again, no one needs over-the-top drama, but here the screenplay needed the mystery, edge-of-the-seat kind of narrative that would make the viewers wonder who the case would favor in the end. Because of the lack of these components in the movie, after a point, Sirf Ek Bandaa Kaafi Hai became predictable. Plenty of scenes were given to the lead where he would come forward and present the right point about the technicality related to the argument put forward by the defense. The lead of the film and the people he represents do not have to face many setbacks. A setback in such courtroom drama stories is required to shake up the lead’s belief in the system from which he or she should emerge successful. But in this film, it seemed like PC Solanki had answers and solutions for everything presented by the defense. This made the screenplay seem too simplistic and devoid of complexity and layers. The ending was unsurprising. The writer, Deepak Kingrani, did not spend much time giving the screenplay layers and complexity for the characters. The entire narrative was in black and white, which made the viewing experience tedious.
The cliched storytelling technique used by Deepak Kingrani and the director, Apoorv Singh Karki, was responsible for making this film seem like something that made no secret of what would happen next. The sense of urgency that was showcased at the start of the movie died down quickly. The witnesses getting killed, the godman and his henchmen carrying out all these crimes to make sure the case falls in their favor—these made the narrative repetitive as well. The audiences are smart enough to understand the MO used by the accused to showcase their power; it need not be dispensed repeatedly in a film that has a running time of two hours and seven minutes. Because of the very basic screenplay, it did not give the director, Apoorv Singh Karki, any space to experiment with the narrative. The straightforward treatment of the screenplay by the director did not build any tension for it to turn this film into a much-watched courtroom drama. The cliched son getting kidnapped in the end was the nail in the coffin.
Fortunately, technical aspects such as the production design and the casting favor the film. The home, the court scenes, and the overall vibe of a Rajasthani city, coupled with some amazing supporting actors, allowed the film to remain interesting.
The performances of the main cast, though, were the other saving grace for this film because if you cast Manoj Bajpai and Vipin Sharma in a film that has nothing to offer as a narrative, you can be assured that their performances will not disappoint you. Manoj can take up any role and ace it. Period. As a lawyer who would go the extra mile to help Nu and her family get justice, Manoj can portray the strength he has to face the powerful with utmost ease. He also showcases his vulnerable side in his last monologue, presented as a closing statement. This scene is a testament to the great actor that he is. His body language and emotions bring so much intensity to the screen. Kudos to the writer for writing such an amazing scene, but again, it is Manoj Bajpai’s performance that gave the scene the impact that it required.
Vipin Sharma is always excellent if given the right role. His performance as the defense lawyer who is trudging between representing his client and wanting to know the truth makes us understand why we need actors like him to portray a man who is not a good person, but he is not a bad person either. We only wish Vipin Sharma had more screen time in this film.
Adrija, as Nu, the victim of molestation, also brings out a certain feminine power that is not afraid to be questioned, even though she knows there will be a thousand accusations thrown at her. For more than half the film, Adrija keeps her face covered for obvious reasons, and even in those scenes, she conveys her pain of being violated and betrayed. Overall, Sirf Ek Bandaa Kaafi Hai is average as an entire product, but if you are looking for some incredible performances and do not mind the above-mentioned flaw, go ahead and give this film your time.