Mumbai, 23 Aug 2019 9:07 IST
Laal Batti is a well-made drama that also makes us aware of the human side of the police.
After the 26/11 terrorist attack in Mumbai that shook the country and laid bare the lack of training and experience of the city police to tackle such a situation, the Maharashtra government formed a Quick Response Team (QRT) consisting of a few highly trained men equipped with the latest arsenal and assigned to respond quickly to a crisis in future.
Girish Mohite’s Laal Batti is about one such team headed by inspector Pawar (Mangesh Desai). The narrative is split in two halves and there is a noticeable tonal shift after the intermission.
In the first half we are introduced to the commandos of the QRT. All but one of the commandos have bonded quite well in the team. The odd man out is Ganesh (Tejas), the quintessential loner. His mysterious nature raises a few questions in the minds of his teammates and inspector Pawar.
The first half mostly focuses on the painstakingly hard training the commandos have to undergo and the mystery surrounding Ganesh. The smartly woven screenplay by Abhay Dakhane explores a few other major problems faced by the Mumbai police. Meagre salaries, no holidays, harassment by their own senior officers, all these problems are explored in brief in the first half.
Often when a film tries to explore multiple subplots, it tends to lose its focus on the main plot, but, thankfully, that is not the case here. The credit for this rare achievement should also go to the writer and the editor of the film, along with the director.
In the second half the tone shifts from drama to investigation thriller. Though the thriller element is less than expected, it still manages to keep you hooked throughout the second half. Barring one negligible portion, there is nothing in the film that feels out of place.
Except for Mangesh Desai and Ramesh Wani, the rest of the cast mostly consists of newcomers. Though Desai is not gifted with a great physique, he manages to deliver such a powerful act that we never question his authority and how he ended up being leader of an elite team of highly skilled men. Ramesh Wani also delivers a sensible performance.
Opinions are likely to be polarized about newcomer Tejas's performance. Throughout the film he doesn’t show much emotion and that puts us in a quandary when it comes to judging his performance. The argument that he can’t act because he couldn’t express his emotions cannot be applied here. We will just have to reserve our opinion about his acting nous till we see him in another project.
Though the film has not been shot in exquisite locations, the cinematography by Sivan is inventive and does not let you get bored. Laal Batti features several 'oners' (20–30 second single takes) which is a rare feat, especially in films of this nature where quick cuts and fast editing are preferred.
Girish Mohite has been working in the industry for more than decade and his command over his craft is quite evident. Overall, Laal Batti is a well-made drama that not only gives us ample thrills but also makes us aware that policemen are also human, have emotions, and need our empathy.
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