Sirf Ek Bandaa Kaafi Hai – one man is all it takes. In the case of this film, it’s Manoj Bajpayee.

As a lawyer battling an influential godman accused of raping a minor, Bajpayee is upright, unwavering – and unctuous. The fan boy in Bajpayee’s PC Solanki peeks through when he meets the celebrity advocates who defend the guru, but disappears as soon as he rises to make his arguments.

Apoorv Singh Karki’s film, inspired by the Asaram Bapu case, has other actors too, all of whom do a good job of conveying the delicate subject matter. Written by Deepak Kingrani, Sirf Ek Bandaa Kaafi Hai traces Solanki’s efforts to obtain justice for the teenager who has accused the godman (Surya Mohan Kulshreshta) of rape.

Sirf Ek Bandaa Kaafi Hai (2023). Courtesy Bhanushali Studios Limited/Zee Studios/Suparn S Varma.

The legal drama, which is out on ZEE5, dresses up an already dramatic story. Solanki walks in slow-motion through the corridors of the courthouse, confident that his thorough knowledge of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act that applies to the case will carry the day. The literal sound of drumrolls courses through Solanki’s victories. His overwrought closing speech belongs to a battlefield after a world war has ended, or perhaps even Judgement Day.

We might better remember Solanki when he is off his pedestal. The grand heroic narrative of one man against powerful forces is easily eclipsed by the more modest moments. While Solanki sticks by his client, the godman has a revolving door of lawyers, each one more pompous than the next.

Their fatuousness – designed to fail, as per the schematic screenplay – invites the slightest curling of the lip from Solanki, that look that says “did you just hear what I heard?” Bajpayee, adept at expressing derision for inferior beings, is superb in these scenes.

The 132-minute movie is determinedly flat despite the momentousness of events. The examination of the cult that gives its leader a sense of criminal entitlement is missing. The sheer burden of proving the rape on the survivor’s family is barely explored. Solanki’s domestic arrangements gets a bit more airing.

The title gives a fair warning. The movie isn’t about the teenager and her family who had the courage to file a police complaint but the crusading lawyer. By casting Bajpayee, the filmmakers ensure that Sirf Ek Bandaa Kaafi Hai reaches its destination efficiently but without quite making an impact.

Sirf Ek Bandaa Kaafi Hai (2023).