Who is more powerful than an on-screen hero who fights like a superhuman? A hero who is only human,” says director Prashant Nair, establishing the tone of this conversation, and making a case for the protagonist of his film, Trial by Fire.
The Netflix offering is based on a Delhi-based couple’s struggle for justice in the aftermath of the death of their children in the 1997 Uphaar Cinema fire tragedy. The stories of regular folk’s heroism hit closer to home than that of a larger-than-life character, says Nair. “Heroism is represented incorrectly on screen, and that is demotivating. We are accustomed to seeing larger-than-life heroes that battle all odds, and that has a bad effect on people, because that’s not how reality is. [A fight] is more nuanced and complex, and that’s what we tried to show in this film. Our intention was to inspire people with the real story of two individuals, instead of showcasing them as heroic and flawless,” the director says.
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The show, starring Abhay Deol and Rajshri Deshpande, is based on a book of the same name. Any cinematic adaptation inspired by a true story is bound to include dramatisation of certain events, but, in this instance, Nair was tasked with another challenge. “We had to ensure that the series didn’t exploit people’s trauma. You want the audience to feel what these people did, and make it as vivid as possible, but you don’t want [those affected] to endure the pain again. The moment when Neelam and Shekhar Krishnamoorthy [on whom the show is based] were watching it was among my life’s most tense ones. We had to show them things that they didn’t need to ever see again. You have the responsibility to not exploit the incident, but seek the purpose behind filming it.”