'Bandaa' Review: Led By Manoj Bajpaye, This hard-Hitting And Nuanced Courtroom Drama Is A Riveting Watch
‘Bandaa’ Review: Led By Manoj Bajpayee, This Hard-Hitting And Nuanced Courtroom Drama Is A Riveting Watch

With Sirf Ek Bandaa Kaafi Hai, director Apoorv Singh Karki makes a strong debut while Manoj Bajpaye proves once again why he is one of the finest actors the country has ever seen

Director: Apoorv Singh Karki
Writer: Deepak Kingrani
Cast: Manoj Bajpayee, Vipin Sharma, Adrija Roy, Surya Mohan Kulshrestha
Rating: 4/5


The plaintiff is a 16-year-old girl, the accused is a famous godman, and the charge is that of sexually abusing a minor. The case is high profile and the Baba has a legion of supporters. But to stand up and fight for justice and ensure that the guilty is punished it doesn’t always take a village; sometimes just one person is enough. Sirf Ek Bandaa Kaafi Hai.



Here this Bandaa is Poonam Chand Solanki (Manoj Bajpayee), an ardent shiv bhakt and a single dad who also double up as a humble but resilient lawyer of a tier 2 city. He sets out to deliver justice to a sexually abused minor girl. But it is a David and Goliath situation for the accused is a self-styled, influential godman who is worshipped by thousands and has powerful minions along with a roster of top defense lawyers of the country, working for him. As fake documents pile up in the courtroom to disprove the girl’s age in an attempt to absolve the accused from the 2012 Act that especially aims at protecting minors from sexual abuse and ensures speedy trial of such cases through Special Courts, witnesses testifying against the Baba are unceremoniously bumped off, and death threats start looming over Solanki and his family, he instead of buckling under pressure becomes more and more resolute. He knew he can’t lose a single hearing of this as that might help the Baba get bail and once out, it would be difficult to again find him and get him inside the prison. ‘Kanoon ke haath itne lambe nahi hai jo America tak pahunch sake!’ he says at one point when the baba’s lawyers attempt to not only get him out of the prison but also out of the country sighting spurious medical grounds. Eventually, after five long grueling years of meticulously working on the case, during which he won every hearing right from the ones at the local session court to the one at the apex court of the country, PC Solanki finally got a guilty verdict for the accused and the Baba was put behind bars for life.



Produced by Zee Studios along with Bhanushali Studios, the film, which is part a poignant semi-biographical movie and part a brilliantly constructed courtroom drama, opens with a 16-year-old Nu (Adrija Roy), arriving at a police station in Delhi along with her parents (Durga Sharma and Jai Hind Kumar) to file an FIR against a godman (Surya Mohan Kulshrestha) for sexually abusing her at his ashram. In a refreshing twist from what one expects in such situations in a Bollywood movie, the police are not corrupt and the girl and her parents are not shamed and sent home. In fact, we have a lady police officer (Priyanka Setia) present at the station to write the FIR following all due process including a medical examination. She is stoic yet sensitive towards the girl and even when she texts her superior prior to lodging the First Information Report, mentioning that ‘case high profile hai’, she is not stopped but instead given proper guidance. The FIR leads to the police promptly springing into action and arresting the Baba from his ashram right under the noses of his fanatic fans. The entire sequence is wiped clean of any trace of melodrama.


With this from the get-go, director Apoorv Singh Karki, who has previously helmed OTT shows like Aspirants, Saas Bahu Achaar Pvt Ltd, Flames, etc, and is making his feature-length movie debut with Bandaa, sets the tone of the movie. Matter-of-fact, stark, and devoid of theatrics, it relies solely on the strength of the story and keeps the narration linear and fuss-free.


And writer Deepak Kingrani (who had also written the popular web series Special Ops) ensures this. His dialogues are powerful but never preachy, including the long monologue of PC Solanki during the closing argument where there is a brilliant use of a Ramayana story. Be it the monologue or when Solanki calmly responds to the defense lawyer’s list of Baba’s ‘good deeds’ with a simple yet poignant line: ‘Building schools and hospitals don’t give you the right to rape’, Manoj Bajpayee ensures that Kingrani dialogues are perfectly executed and never sound stilted. There is also wry humour in the scene where Solanki sheepishly asks a high-profile defense lawyer fighting for Baba’s bail for a selfie, or when trying to keep up with an angry and furiously table-slapping defense lawyer, Solanki hits the table with his palm after making his argument only to writhe in pain and quip: ‘oye lag gayi’. Bajpayee excels in these apparently inconsequential moments as well. He imbues PC Solanki with the poise and charm of a common man, and a slight accent and a distinct body language.



If Karki and Kingrani form the brain of the movie, Manoj Bajpayee is its beating heart. The trio makes sure that PC Solaki remains an ordinary man with extraordinary resilience and never becomes a ‘hero’ or the macho lawyer we usually see in Bollywood movies. Solanki shits bricks when being chased by goons on a bike through the narrow lanes of his town, he gets flustered when his son goes ‘missing’ for a brief while and beats him up once he comes back, he is shell-shocked when a witness walking in front of him is stabbed to death outside the court in broad daylight, he needs his mother’s encouragement and together they sit and recite Ramdhari Singh Dinkar’s Sach hai vipatti jab aati hai, / Kayar ko hee dahlati hai/ Soorma nahi vichlit hote, / Kshan ek nahi dheeraj khote to find the courage to carry on. His most endearing quality, apart from his dogged pursuit for justice, is probably his humility–he is genuinely in awe of his much-senior and high-profile colleagues he finds himself pitted against during the course of the trial. But he never lets anything sway him from his path. He is damn good at his job and banks more on his research and legal knowledge than the theatrics. Bajpayee becomes Solanki in a way only he can. He delivers robust dialogues with a calm restraint making sure things never become melodramatic. But as always, it is in the quieter moments — be it the minor twitching of the left side of his mouth or the slight shaking of his hand after giving an emotionally charged speech, or when he is just trying to boost Nu’s confidence with minimal nodding of the head or making hand gestures — that actually reflects his true brilliance as an actor.


Adrija gives an earnest performance as the 16-year-old survivor who even though scared to her core remains steadfast in her pursuit for justice. Jai Hind Kumar as the enraged and helpless father is effective. Vipin Sharma as the defense lawyer who is Solanki’s opponent and colleague at the session court gives a worthy performance (and one is reminded of his turn as Prosecutor More of Shahid). Thespian Surya Mohan Kulshrestha as Baba hardly gets much to do but his looming presence and piercing gaze are enough to send chills down the spine.


Arjun Kukreti’s cinematography is good, especially in the courtroom scenes, which can otherwise be tricky, equally good is the way he captures the narrow lanes and bylanes of Jodhpur. Editor Sumeet Kotian ensures that despite its 132-minute runtime and most of the action being restricted inside the courtrooms, the narrative never loses its pace and keeps a firm grip on the audience’s focus. Music by Sangeet-Siddharth Roy is impactful in places, but has patches of underwhelming.




Sirf Ek Bandaa Kaafi Hai follows the half-a-decade-long legal battle undertaken by a tenacious and knowledgeable High Court Lawyer, PC Solanki to get justice for a minor girl, Nu Singh sexually abused by a Baba. It is a faceoff between a common man and a godman, between David and Goliath, and between a religious man fighting for dharma and a bigot brainwashing people in the name of religion.



A nuanced and stark courtroom drama led by a stupendous Manoj Bajpayee, Bandaa is a rare case of a perfect director-actor jugalbandi that hits all the right notes without becoming self-indulgent. Debutant director Apoorv Singh Karki tells the story brilliantly, often with a calculated restraint never letting emotions cloud his decisions as a filmmaker. He, along with his writer, Deepak Kingrani, creates a lucid yet potent courtroom drama that steers clear of the histrionics usually associated with Bollywood movies of this genre, and never becomes preachy or stilted.


If it indeed takes only Sirf Ek Bandaa Kaafi Hai to pull a brave and sensitive movie like this one, that Bandaa is definitely Manoj Bajpayee. After his last outing as Arun Batra in Gulmohar, the three-time National Award winner proves once again why he is one of the best actors the country has ever produced. The actor, who is a masterclass in playing different shades of the common man, is impeccable as the humble yet resilient lawyer of a Tier-II city.


You can watch this riveting courtroom drama on Zee 5.

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