‘Trial By Fire’ Episode 7: Recap And Ending, Explained: The Picture Of Death And Disaster Inside Uphaar Cinema Hall

Netflix’s 2023 release “Trial by Fire” ends on a poignant note after spending a major portion of the final episode depicting the horrors of what happened inside the Uphaar cinema hall on June 13, 1997. On that day, which will be remembered as a dark day in the history of Delhi, 900 people walked into a theater to watch J.P. Nair’s newest movie, “Border.” However, a fire started because of callousness and ignorance on the part of the management, and 59 people died inside the hall that day. Among the deceased were the two children of Shekhar and Neelam Krishnamoorthy – Ujjwal and Unnati. Their deaths traumatized the parents so deeply that they created an organization – The Association for the Victims of the Uphaar Tragedy, and its aim was to bring the culprits of the case to justice. The main accused were the brothers Gopal and Sushil Ansal, renowned real estate magnates touted to have owned half of the national capital. The Krishnamoorthys spent several years trying to find justice, and in 2016, the court was set to give its decision. Here’s what the court decided—and a deeper look into what happened inside the cinema hall all those years ago.


Spoilers Ahead

A Travesty Of Justice 

The final episode is mostly made of flashbacks from the day that changed the lives of several families. The seventh episode begins after the court has acquitted the Ansal Brothers—the primary accused in the Uphaar cinema hall fire—and Neelam and Shekhar Krishnamoorthy are being bombarded with questions from the media. Frustration and despair over all these years burst through Neelam like a flood, and she questions the legitimacy of a judicial system that takes almost two decades to make a decision that she finds completely wrong. She mentions the alternate option that she could have chosen instead of going the legal way—getting a gun and shooting the killers of her children dead on the same night Ujjwal and Unnati died. 


A Nightmare That Ended With Death 

We return to the day of the tragedy and finally get a look at the calm before the storm hit, which would ruin so many lives. On the day of the Uphaar tragedy, we once again meet Unnati and Ujjwal, who leave for the cinema hall. A man who works in a carpet shop next to Uphaar parks his bike and enters the shop as the younger Krishnamoorthys get off an autorickshaw outside the cinema hall. Mrs. Goswami drops off her elderly parents outside the theater and leaves after arguing with the couple. The seven family members of Kishan Pal excitedly walk toward the theater. These families, all of them in a cheery mood, were arriving to enjoy a film they were excited about and had no idea what tragedy was to befall them, partly because of one man. 

The man in question, Mr. Arora, the manager of the cinema hall, is seen greeting a few Chinese businessmen who are friends of the Ansals. Ujjwal and Unnati await Arjun, his friend when the nameless employee who left her necklace at the memorial in Episode 4 bumps into them. However, he shows zero signs of regret and is walking away when Arora calls him and asks him to have the Chinese ambassadors seated in the box. In the washroom where Ujjwal is washing off, another character is introduced who stares at his own reflection in a mirror anxiously. Outside, he meets another man waiting with two popcorn packets, and the former complains that his father will never understand. Meanwhile, Hardeep Singh Bedia and his wife, whom we met in Episode 5, arrive at the theater, with Hardeep complaining that they should’ve gotten the box seats. As the hall starts getting packed, we get brief glimpses of the two men talking about the familial troubles and holding hands, Ujjwal and Unnati chewing on popcorn, and Kishan Pal’s family making their way to the same row as the Bedis as the movie starts. 


On his way out, Arora clarifies that no one should enter without a ticket, so a doorman proceeds to seal the fate of the cinema-goers as he locks the door from the outside. Disturbance begins inside the transformer in the underground parking lot, and lights start flickering. As Arora is smoking outside, Arjun arrives and heads to the ticket counter, takes his ticket, and tries to enter the hall, only to find it locked from the outside. Fire breaks out in the transformer and quickly spreads to the entire parking area. The projector operator requests Arora to take a look, who begrudgingly follows, only to find chaos, as there’s not a single fire extinguisher and panic spreads immediately. Mrs. Bedi is the first to spot the smoke, but Hardeep shushes her. An employee rushes to Arora to tell him to call the police, who shouts and sends him away. Failing to contact emergency services, he does the next best thing – not sending for fire engines or ensuring the safety of the moviegoers – but emptying the money from the ticket sales to go deliver to the higher-ups. 

Inside the hall, people start coughing as smoke starts spreading, and at the first hint of trouble, the employees lead the Chinese businessmen outside. Understanding the situation, the projector operator tries to keep people calm by asking them to make their way to the exit, but as fate would have it, the announcing system is out of order. People start rushing, and two queues form, one heading toward the exit near the box while the rest heading toward the main exit. As a stampede ensues, people start thumping against the locked door, and Arora comes out to find relatives, friends, and family members gathering outside. The hall caught on fire when Ujjwal and Unnati were trying to leave, but the nameless employee who had sneaked in to watch the movie was fleeing and pushing the siblings on his way up. In the scuffle, Unnati’s necklace gets stuck on his watch. People can’t escape through the stairs as there’s fire downstairs, everyone is coughing, gasping for air, and some have already died. One of them is probably the son of Kishan Pal, as his wife is pleading with him to wake up. The employee is running away when the wife grabs him by the leg and begs him to help. Trying to get free, he kicks the baby in her arms, and the 6-month-old baby falls and dies. A pathetic human being in every sense of the word. Some people have caught on fire and are screaming in pain. Hardeep and his wife are gingerly making their way out when Hardeep finds a young man and decides to help him. Another person, while looking for someone named Ruhi, bulldozes through and pushes Hardeep, who trips and falls into the fire. Mrs. Bedi collapses to the floor from shock as the employee who murdered a baby limps his way to a clearing. Several people are thumping on a closed door, while many are struggling to breathe when Chirag, one of the two boys from earlier, spots a slit in the wall that can be used to escape outside and calls his partner, Amit. Others have had the same idea, and people are watching helplessly as someone hangs from the slits but finds footing on a cornice below. Chirag also climbs out of the same slit as Amit promises he’ll follow, but the cloth he’s being lowered down by starts slipping, and Chirag hangs in mid-air. 


Rescue Comes Along 

The carpet-store worker rushes in with carpets to help cushion the falls of the people jumping from the hall. The cloth slips and Chirag lands on the cornice, but the person who was standing there is pushed off as he falls to his death. Amit is pushed away with the crowd as Chirag is helped down by the carpet-shop workers while many people are stuck on one side of the door with fire burning and pleading to be let outside. A few people push the door, and the employee is among the ones who make it to the other side. There’s a basin on this side, and he washes his face and drinks some water while the ones on the other side are crying, constantly banging on the door, and trying to survive. Mrs. Bedi is being helped by the boy that Hardeep tried helping up, but a shard of glass pierces her foot, and she slouches down as grief over losing her husband hits her. Fire engines have finally arrived, and the firefighters are rushing to get stairs set up when Chirag runs to the lead firefighter, begging him to help, but he’s shoved away. The firefighters start bringing out people, most of them unconscious, some of them already dead. With people on their last legs, water hoses start spraying water through the windows, and Mrs. Bedi and the boy who saved her are rescued by firefighters who smash the windows and force their way inside. Amit is brought outside, and a firefighter tries to revive him as Chirag pushes his way through the crowd. He quickly realizes that Amit suffocated to death, and he’s weeping while holding his hand when Sohan, the father who Amit was unhappy with, arrives. The gut-wrenching cries of a father who tries to shake his dead son awake while he begs for a doctor or anybody who can help make for one of the most heartbreaking moments of the episode. Mrs. Bedi sits on the outside, stunned to silence, as Sohrab, the boy who helped her, is taken away by a woman. The nameless employee is saved and brought down, and he walks through the crowd, all the while with a look of complete shock on his face. Arora walks through the sea of people, relatives, family members, and friends. Does he realize that he’s the reason for the din of lament around him? 

The Achievements Of A Tired Couple And A Group

Shekhar wakes up to find his wife up and busy with casework; he brushes his teeth and prepares coffee as Neelam asks him for help. Later, on her way to court, several people greet her, including policemen and lawyers. After more than two decades in and out of the court, Neelam is a face almost as recognizable as one of the chief justices. Shekhar speaks about the successes their mission has achieved with the A.V.U.T. members and informs them that now every school in Delhi has to follow the mandatory rule of installing at least one fire extinguisher on every floor. Several new faces can be seen—the association is a lot bigger now. Sohan meets Neelam at court and helps her in the process. A man who was skeptical about joining the association in 1997 has become an active member in the court case—only if Amit could see this version of his father. They arrive at the courtroom, and the judge congratulates Neelam on her movement for the school safety issues. Amrita Singh, Neelam’s lawyer, starts with the case of tampering of evidence and begins with the fateful day of the fire, as Neelam looks at the camera before the screen fades to black. Two title cards announce that almost 25 years after the tragedy, the Ansal brothers were sentenced to prison on charges of tampering with evidence but were released again within six months. 

‘Trial By Fire’ Episode 7: Ending

The final episode of Netflix’s “Trial by Fire” might be considered too disturbing for some audiences, and it’s absolutely fair. It perfectly captured the situations that make people consider jumping off a two-story building rather than being burnt to death. We never see Ujjwal and Unnati afterward, and it’s assumed that they died of suffocation, but their parents established an association that led to a landmark decision in matters of public safety while trying to bring their children’s killers to justice. However, justice seemed to escape the ones who died in the fire under hellish circumstances and the ones who survived the fire but lost people they loved in it. The survivors, like Chirag or Mrs. Bedi, could never forget the nightmare they lived through and how the people they loved couldn’t escape. The series makes a point to show the travesty of justice that happened here, as the rich and powerful could escape the clutches of the law yet again. Neelam’s long stare into the camera could be a stare into the judicial system that failed to ensure that the primary accused stayed behind bars, irrespective of how old or how powerful they might be. After six months of jail time, the Ansals were released, and this shows how broken the judiciary system can be. But on a positive note, A.V.U.T achieved things one could only dream of, and if by these changes, another Uphaar tragedy can be avoided and people’s lives are saved, that might be the biggest gift that parents like Shekhar and Neelam can receive. 

Indrayudh Talukdar
Indrayudh Talukdar
Indrayudh has a master's degree in English literature from Calcutta University and a passion for all things in cinema. He loves writing about the finer aspects of cinema, although he is also an equally big fan of webseries and anime. In his free time, Indrayudh loves playing video games and reading classic novels.

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