Sirf Ek Bandaa Kaafi Hai Hindi Movie

Feature Film | 2023 | Drama
The film needs a bit more dramatic tension but benefits from some splendind performances, especially Manoj Bajpayee who delivers an acting masterclass.
May 30, 2023 By Sreejith Mullappilly

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Apoorv Singh Karki's "Sirf Ek Bandaa Kaafi Hai" is a courtroom drama based on the real-life rape of a minor by Asaram Bapu, a self-proclaimed godman. In a long-drawn-out procedural, justice was delivered, but not before the hearing got delayed and the case was transferred from one court to the other. You do not necessarily sense this passing of time in "Sirf Ek Bandaa Kaafi Hai" because this is a roughly 2-hour movie. You cannot cover everything in a limited amount of time, and understandably so. But Karki's film finds enough time to show the dirty game of the protagonist Babaji (Surya Mohan Kulshrestha) and his lawyers to avoid an unfavorable outcome for them, as well as the victim's relationship dynamics with the lawyer.

The film shows how hard it is to win a case against a religious figure in India. The public's sentiment will mostly favor the accused, even as it sways somewhat between people with blind faith, strong believers, and atheists. The godman also gets to pull the strings and even break some laws to bribe the powerful and muffle the voice of the powerless. In a scene early in the film, Manoj Bajpayee's advocate PC Solanki tells the victim and her family that the opposition lawyer and his team will play all the tricks in the book to save their client and that he will even brave death threats to bring them justice.

Bajpayee does not merely play the character of the real-life lawyer; he embodies the man's ideals. You can sense the steadfast determination of the man in the black suit in his eyes and voice. In the court scenes, Bajpayee uses pauses, maintains a great economy of words, shows a great sense of control over the legal language, and delivers each of the big speeches like he means it. It's a performance within a performance. Deepak Kingrani gives Bajpayee some effective Ramayan references to make the lawyer character that much more interesting.

As the rape victim, Adrija Sinha is so good. She makes her character's angst, discomfort, anger, and bravado palpable. There are a couple of effective scenes involving Adrija and Bajpayee, although I wanted more such sequences. The movie also includes seasoned actors like Vipin Sharma in small yet important roles.

On the other hand, the writing and direction deal with the incident in a highly sensitive manner and put forth some provocative points. For instance, notice how Karki shows Babaji as someone who often peeks out from behind the curtain in the court. This is a metaphor for how a godman like Baba does all the disgraceful deeds behind closed doors while maintaining a clean, cult persona in public.

The film seldom has a boring moment, although the climax could use some more dramatic tension. It's not like Solanki gets a walkover here, and the fact that the case went on and on for five years must mean that it was not all smooth sailing for him. That said, this is a solid courtroom drama with some splendid performances.

Sreejith Mullappilly