Batla House Movie Review: On September 16, 2008, ACP Sanjay Kumar's (John Abraham) Delhi Police team reaches the locality where Batla House is situated, to assess and apprehend suspected IM terrorists holed up there. Sanjay hadn't reached the location yet, and he only gave orders to the unit to arrest them. However, a firing takes place and most of the suspected terrorists are killed, one is apprehended and one makes an escape. A police officer (Ravi Kishan) is also martyred and the team is accused of gross human rights violations. Batla House: Here Are 5 Changes Made by the CBFC in John Abraham’s Action Drama.
The human rights activists and some sections of media claim that the killed terrorists are mere students. The politicians make a huge fuss out of it and even the ministry tries to wash their hands off the issue. Sanjay suffers from PTSD and behaves erratically, much to the concern of his wife, Nandita (Mrunal Thakur). Though his department backs him up and even recommends him for a gallantry award, Sanjay decides to prove his innocence once and for all, by catching that one terrorist that got away.
Those expecting to Batla House to be a true retelling of what happened during and after the encounter, will find the movie not going as per their expectations. Character names have changed, though the details of what happened with the case have been retained. There are too many references and incidents that are mentioned in Batla House, that at times, it is difficult to grasp them all. But that is the least concern I have about this John Abraham-starrer.
Nikkhil Advani, who has directed Batla House, had made a really underrated but highly watchable thriller in D-Day, in 2013. It was a fictional take on what happens if India's RAW agents get hold of the most dreaded don who is NOT Dawood Ibrahim. I was expecting Batla House to have the thrill of the film, with some really engaging protagonists who suffer from the moral ambiguity of their jobs. But Batla House isn't D-Day. It is more of a half-baked effort to tell a real-life incident.
Batla House is intense at times, especially when it delves into Sanjay's PTSD episodes; thrilling in a couple of moments. But the movie clearly lacks the conviction to make us understand the complicity of the case that Sanjay and his team are involved in. By keeping the true events that lead to the shootout to the very end, Advani and writer Ritesh Shah wants to create a Talwar-like impact on how the shootout could have a different angle to it. However, with the entire focus being on the protagonist, we really don't have any doubts about the ambiguity of his controversial mission. It would have worked if we have gotten another view to the events, that keeps things in grey. No such luck, though.
Batla House also feels stretched when it delves into Sanjay's personal life and his strained relationship with his wife. These portions give out a sense of deja vu, as there is nothing new there that we haven't see before. It would have been better if the wife, who happened to be an upright news anchor, could have been more than be a source of support. The same also goes for Sanjay's unit, who feel more like background fillers (who turns cheerleaders in the end) than rounded characters.
Still, Batla House kept me engaged with Sanjay and his team's persistent efforts to catch that one terrorist who got away, despite the red-tapism and political motivations playing roadblocks in their mission. I particularly enjoyed the scene when the caught terrorist, on realising that the camera is off during interrogation, admits his crime and justifies it using religious couplets. Only for Sanjay to uses his own teachings against him and get him to STFU. The scene is filmy, but it does leave an impact. That said, there were enough moments of forced nationalism that could have been reeled in. I am also not in favour of how a certain community is portrayed in a negative light felt inappropriate going by what's happening around us IRL. Also, not a fan of how the media and the Human Rights activists are portrayed as the bad guys here. Movies may not need to make a social statement always, but it can be a bit more responsible. Even if, I am sure, I belong to the minority group who thinks so.
The second half when the team devises ways to catch the runaway suspect makes for more intrigue. Sure, the 'O Saki Saki' song that comes in between, was needless, but there were moments of thrill in there. The chase sequences are well-shot and it leaves you gasping at times. The same cannot be said about the courtroom drama that makes up for the climax. What should have been the highpoint of the movie, ends up getting dragged quite unnecessary with enough cinematic tropes that you really don't want to watch at that moment. Like the hero, who breaks his reticence and end up monologuing to the court!
Watch the trailer of Batla House here:
The runtime is also quite long and some of the scenes could have easily been left in the editing room. The BG score, when not bombastic, does remain in sync with the proceedings.
If you have no qualms with John Abraham's...errr... well, limited histrionics, then you will be comfortable with his performance in Batla House. John makes the body language and the mannerisms right, and is convincing. I expected a bit more nuance from the actor in the scenes that show his PTSD, but then, I may be asking too much.
Mrunal Thakur has a more expanded role that what she had in Super 30. Despite how her character mostly does is worry if her husband is suicidal, the actress does good with the restricted scope of her role. Among the supporting cast, Ravi Kishan and Alok Pandey leave some impact.
- Some Thrilling Moments
- The Premise
- The Performances, somewhat
- Convoluted Screenplay
- Too Filmy for a Real-Life Drama
- A Disappointing Third Act
- Too Long
Batla House is the kind of a film that will work at the box office, going by a certain trend that makes films like Satyameva Jayate and Uri end up being hits. I only wish that there was a better variance in how the real events that inspired the film were treated. Instead of taking a completely filmy route, and throw the ambiguity out of the window.