The lives of the Krishnamoorthys of Delhi changed forever on June 13, 1997, when they lost their teenage children in a fire that engulfed the Uphaar cinema hall. Several other people lost their loved ones because the doors of the balcony hall remained locked from the outside, and 59 people suffocated to death. Netflix’s 2023 release “Trial by Fire” narrates the journey of the families who showed the courage to stand against the ones who owned half the city and braved through years of hardship, struggles, frustration, and heartbreaks in search of justice. Let’s explore what all happened in “Trial by Fire” Episode 2.
All That The Fire Ruined
We’re introduced to a tearful, frail old man named Kishan Pal, in a night guard’s costume in a hospital, who lost seven family members in the Uphaar fire on the night of the accident. As the nurse calls out the names and ages of the deceased, right down to his 6-month-old granddaughter, the devastated man breaks down and weeps uncontrollably. Loading the several bodies into a nondescript white van takes an immense amount of time, and Kishan sits with an exhausted look on his face. A while later, the bodies are found lying on the ground, with nobody to help the broken, old man until his neighbor arrives, and they are seen carrying the bodies through the narrow streets of Delhi’s “chawls,” low-quality housing that shares similarities with tenements. The neighbor introduces Kishan – who he calls “chacha”, meaning uncle – to Hari’, who will take care of the formalities, but Hari demands payment before budging an inch. “Chacha” breaks down upon seeing the funeral photos of his now-deceased family.
As Kishan’s neighbors argue among themselves about how to raise money for the final rites of his entire family, an unknown man arrives in the neighborhood. Kishan returns to his humble home to find the man waiting for him, and he’s offered Rs. 15,000, but Kishan refuses. On his way out, he offers his card to the helpful neighbor, and the card reads N. Suri. A while later, Kishan steps outside to find the neighbors expending their savings to pay for the final rites of the old man’s family.
The Responsibilities Of Parenthood
Two weeks have passed since the Uphaar cinema hall burned down, and the Krishnamoorthys find themselves inside the spacious and lavishly decorated office of a lawyer who sympathizes with the grieving parents. But that’s all he can offer. The lawyer clarifies that going up against Gopal and Sushil Ansal—the owners of the Uphaar cinema hall, along with several other multi-million-dollar properties across the city—is a foolhardy task. He also mentions that there’s not a single major law firm in Delhi that has no connections with the Ansals. Frustrated, the couple reaches for the door when Shekhar returns to let the lawyer know that parents like them teach their children to apologize if they make a mistake—something the Ansals are clearly unaware of since they haven’t breathed a word of sympathy, apology, or regret since the tragedy happened.
The Krishnamoorthys are seen creating an association with every person who lost someone close to them in the Uphaar fire. Shekhar calls up the people who have lost their near and dear ones in the fire and notes down their names, then assures Neelam that they’ll face the Ansals united. However, she refutes his optimism and says that they’re indeed alone in this battle because nobody will dare to testify against the Ansals. She meets Shalini Aggarwal on the staircase, borrows a cigarette from her, and recalls the memories of her children. Later, Shalini trims Neelam’s haphazard hair while recounting the death of her husband five years before. The two women, both of whom have lost someone, seem to bond over their losses. Later, Neelam visits the office of the Electrical Department, where she finally finds an official willing to help. He gives a detailed description of the myriad ways the cinema hall was a catastrophe waiting to happen, with an utter disregard for safety procedures, and he even informs her that the transformer that caught fire that evening had already caught fire earlier in the morning. He also offers a copy of his report to Neelam but adds regretfully that his report will be the only action that the case receives. The trajectory of the case will follow any other incident that claims the lives of people: people will shout for justice for a few days, a few officers of the Delhi Vidyut Board will be fired, and another tragedy will arrive and wipe the slate clean. Shekhar visits several houses of the victims with whom he had spoken over the phone to discuss the case in person, but strangely, none of them seem interested in seeking justice any longer. He walks into the Goswami residence and tries speaking to Mrs. Goswami, who has lost her parents in the fire. She refuses to join Shekhar but offers her the visiting card of a dry fruit supplier named N. Suri, who apparently paid them a hefty sum as compensation. It’s now clear why none of the families wish to help Shekhar—the Ansals have bought their silence. However, Shekhar finally achieves a breakthrough when Nupur Goyal, a mother who lost her son in the fire, agrees to join the association. Before leaving, Shekhar entrusts Nupur with a picture of Ujjwal and Unnati and asks her to give it to the dry fruit supplier who’ll be coming to visit them. On the back of the card, Shekhar blames Suri for the deaths of his children.
Meanwhile, Neelam visits the police station and wants to launch an FIR against the Ansal Brothers when the officer-in-charge informs her that the DGP has given the case his highest priority, but he’s unavailable for the day as he has gone to attend the wedding of a minister’s son. Realizing that the police won’t help her, she sneaks out a copy of the invitation card and asks Shalini to come with her to the wedding, although under the pretense that these affluent people are her business clients. At the wedding, Neelam ends up creating a scene when she demands action from the DGP by repeatedly mentioning the lack of care that the Prime Minister has shown about the case. Shalini and Neelam are made to leave the party, and on her way back, the grieving mother sheds yet more tears.
‘Trial By Fire’ Episode 2: Ending
Back home, Neelam regrets that they’ll never find justice and the criminals will get away scot-free when Shekhar tells her that they have found the first member of their organization—Mrs. Goyal. Later, several family members of the victims, including Kishan Pal, come together and join hands in the search for justice against the Ansals, and Neelam introduces them to renowned lawyer Mr. K.T.S. Tulsi, who’ll guide them along. Mr. Tulsi announces that all the members should unite and lodge an FIR against the Ansals and create an association that can seek justice. Thus, the Association for the Victims of the Uphaar Tragedy is formed, as N. Suri watches from afar.
“Trial by Fire” Episode 2 ends on a positive note, as the Krishnamoorthys finally find support from other grieving families as well as the guidance of an advocate. The coming together of these families spells doom for the wretched Ansals, who focused on profits over the safety of the lives of the cinemagoers. The business tycoons do prove how horrible they are by offering money to the families, which also serves as a binding contract. Taking the money and speaking against the Ansals meant inviting danger to one’s own doorstep, which is why Shekhar was rejected by so many. The episode also serves as a reminder that although negligence and callousness exist in every sector of the bureaucracy, there are people who have kindness in their hearts, as evidenced by the neighbors of Kishan Pal. However, the struggle is only beginning, and enemy eyes have already taken note of every step of the Krishnamoorthys and the rest of the members.