Review | Sirf Ek Bandaa Kaafi Hai – Rests On Bandaa Manoj Bajpayee

"Sirf Ek Bandaa Kaafi Hai" is a courtroom drama film directed by Apoorv Singh Karki and produced by Zee Studios. It features Manoj Bajpayee in the lead.

General Rating

In a nut-shell:

Rests On Bandaa Manoj Bajpayee

Rab ka banda…’. The background song spotlights who he is as the opening credits follow Manoj Bajpayee all over Jodhpur on his two-wheeler. You need no further introduction to upright advocate PC Solanki (Manoj Bajpayee) who fights a powerful, well-connected godman and puts him away in jail for the rest of his sleazy life. 

Based on true events.

Four words that are enough to point you to the source of this legal courtroom drama. By tweaking names and incidents just a bit, director Apoorv Singh Karki and writer Deepak Kingrani lay out a fictionalised version of the case against Asaram Bapu who currently cools his heels in a Jodhpur jail.

A bit of real background on the ‘godman’ who once had politicians of all hues at his feet: Asaram was the disgusting ‘spiritual leader’ who had infamously stated that Nirbhaya (the Delhi gang rape victim) was as much to blame for her plight as the perpetrators. He had sickeningly said that she should’ve called them ‘bhaiya’ and had unpardonably added that it takes two hands to clap. It was divine irony that the same godman faced a five-year-long case and was convicted for serious crimes under several sections of the IPC including the POCSO Act in 2018. Also loathsome was that his son Narayan too was convicted for sexual crimes.  

In retelling Asrama’s story cinematically, Apoorv Karki takes pains to establish that fighting a supposed sadhu is not to be equated with lampooning Hinduism or its practices. Before setting off for work each day, when Solanki performs his daily pooja to Lord Shiva and answers his curious little son’s queries on religion, the message that the lawyer is a staunch Hindu is conveyed unambiguously. 

It is topped with Solanki’s closing argument five years later in court where he narrates an important lesson from the Ramayan – why Shiva did not forgive his most devoted follower Ravana who had disguised himself as a sadhu to entrap Sita. Using religion and hoodwinking people in the guise of a saint is the most heinous of all crimes, concludes an emotionally stirred Solanki. And a smalltime baba who chants ‘Har har Mahadev’ near his house every day, nods his approval to Solanki. 

Fake godmen who sexually assault girls and devout Hindus are mutually exclusive, we get it.

It’s effective because Karki keeps his narration linear without much distraction. 16-year-old Nu Singh (Adrija Sinha) has had the guts to go with her parents and lodge an FIR against Babaji (Suryakumar Kulshrestha), and is ready to undergo a medical examination and face the unsavoury questions that will be thrown at her. Perhaps drawing strength from that slender survivor, Solanki finds enormous reserves of courage in himself to stand up to the many threats and testing situations he’s placed in as he fights for Nu. And despite the vast money and political resources of the accused, Solanki triumphs in getting Babaji convicted.

The simple, strong story of victory against daunting odds makes a connection and the young survivor having to cover her face is a telling metaphor on how a victim is shamed instead of the perpetrator getting his face blackened. 

But it is not perfectly crafted cinema. Karki is like a dramatic filmmaker of the 70s when presenting Babaji and his associates like a villain and his henchmen with smoke floating across the screen as they bellow and threaten over telephones. Hefty renowned lawyers who are brought in to defend the godman are caricatured by Karki which somewhat dents the seriousness of the courtroom battle where a great balance in the arguments is always far more gripping than an obvious one-sided tilt. 

The background music (Sangeet Siddharth) is also jarringly foreboding as if that was necessary to set the ambience for say, the headlines of a newspaper that stun Solanki a wee bit.   

Most of all, there’s an unabashed borrowing of the Criminal Justice and Jolly LLB templates – a self-effacing advocate pitched against biggies in the legal business, a bit of wit attempted as the serious case proceeds and glimpses into the humble lawyer’s personal life. Samples of wit: while bail keeps getting denied, a bhakt tailing Babaji inside jail promises him he’ll be out in a day…then a month…then six months. Or, Solanki so caught up in his thoughts that his son grins he’s polished his shoes five times over. And Solanki wearing a new shirt for the big day in court with the judge whispering to him to remove the price tag. 

As for the personal, a single parent to his son, Solanki also has a mother who’s a moral guide for him. All of which add to him being the good bandaa.

Some of the lines also reach home sharply. When a defence lawyer lists the many noble acts of Babaji, Solanki quietly remarks, “Building schools and hospitals doesn’t give you the right to rape.”

With a relatively unknown cast except for character actor Vipin Sharma who comes in as Babaji’s defence lawyer, Manoj Bajpayee is the only known face on the screen. But, as the title suggests, ‘sirf ek bandaa kaafi hai’ as Manoj changes his body language to be the nondescript advocate of Jodhpur and carries the show on his able shoulders.

Watch the trailer of “Sirf Ek Bandaa Kaafi Hai”

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Rests On Bandaa Manoj BajpayeeReview | Sirf Ek Bandaa Kaafi Hai - Rests On Bandaa Manoj Bajpayee