Director Randeep Jha on Trial By Fire: 'Empathy goes beyond the story'
Co-director Randeep Jha, in an interview with Hindustan Times, shared his experience on working on the Netflix web series based on real-life events. He talked about how empathy plays a large part in understanding the series.
Prior to co-directing the recent Netflix web series Trial By Fire, Randeep Jha made his feature directorial debut with the mystery thriller Halahal (2020). Like Trial By Fire, the Eros Now film starring Barun Sobti and Sachin Khedekar was also inspired from real-life events. Based on MP Vyapam scam, it featured Sachin as a doctor trying to uncover the truth about his daughter's death. (Also read: Trial by Fire review: Netflix series based on 1997 Uphaar tragedy is a triumphant reminder of the cost of resilience)
In seven-episode Netflix series, the lead characters are also parents, who undertake a long journey to bring to light a grave tragedy which could have been avoided in the Uphaar cinema fire incident. Randeep worked with filmmaker Prashant Nair, who has written and directed the series as well. In an interview with Hindustan Times, the director spoke about the written word which helped shape the story and how empathy plays a large part in the series' experience.
He shared, "Bas hamara kaam yeh tha ki usse jitna achhe tareke se portray kar pai (Our job was to portray the story well), on a human level." The series is based on the memoir of the same by Shekhar and Neelam Krishnamoorthy, played by Abhay Deol and Rajshri Deshpande.
Besides the book, Randeep shared they also looked at videos, articles and news reports from that time. "During the process, some empathy begins to come in and is created. You begin to understand it more closely. It goes beyond the story then."
While Randeep was not able to meet the couple on whom the story is based, his co-director and writer Prashant had several meetings with them. The audience has some strong reactions to the series, the director shared.
He said, "When we read the book, and when we were working on the series, you feel that injustice. That how much one person has to go through. That empathy is also coming in [viewers] now, they are having heavy reactions to it."
Randeep continued, "The emotional scenes were heavy when we were shooting. It had to be done with a lot of sensitivity. The fire [sequences] were physically very challenging as we had to pay attention to a lot of technical things, along with safety. At the same time, you have to tell the story. It was tough too."
The filmmaker was quite young when he first heard the story but it was something that stayed with him. He recalled, "After this incident happened, most of us were following this case that what is happening. We were small but that time it used to come up a lot in the news. After I grew up too, I had read about it. When it came to me, I was a little surprised that finally something is being made on this. It was a big tragedy. "
Speaking about what viewers can take away from the series, Randeep said he hope they would understand the Krishnamoorthy's struggle. "The idea of justice is beautiful but to reach that idea you have to struggle a lot. The person who struggles for justice, his/her idea of justice also changes and their struggles are also paid off in society somehow. Society gets justice. It's nice to hear that 'Oh, injustice is being done' but how does it feel? After 25 years go by following up on that injustice," he concluded.