‘Trial By Fire’ is a drama series based on the Uphaar Cinema fire tragedy that took place in 1997 in Delhi. It has been adapted from novel of the same name, written by Shekhar and Neelam Krishnamoorthy, who lost their children in the incident. The series is now streaming on Netflix.
Warning: This article contains heavy spoilers
Shekhar and Neelam Krishnamoorthy are two unassuming parents whose children, Unnati and Ujjwal, are going to watch Border in Uphaar Cinema in 1997.
To their utter shock, the entire theatre has caught fire and bodies are piling up one after another. The victims are being treated in AIIMS and Safdarjung.
Shekhar finds the body of his children, leaving both parents distraught. After their funeral, Neelam realises that Arjun, Ujjwal’s friend, survived the incident.
Although he refuses to come out of his room out of shock at first, he eventually talks to Neelam and reveals that he never entered the film hall as he was late and the doors had been locked from the outside.
Neelam and Shekhar realise that the cinema owners had locked the doors to stop any freeloaders from entering and watching without tickets. This resulted in the death of 59 people who were unable to escape.
Not only this, the safety measures of the theatre were severely lacking. The two parents decide to fight this battle against the rich and powerful owners: Sushil and Gopal Ansal.
Shekhar and Neelam attempt to form a group of all those who lost someone in the tragedy, but find that nobody is coming forward.
A man named N. Suri has been giving each of them money to keep quiet. However, a security guard named Kishan Pal, who lost his entire family in the incident, comes forward to support them. Eventually, they convince a few and form the Association of The Victims of Uphaar Tragedy (AVUT).
3 months after the Uphaar fire, Sushil Ansal is arrested. Neelam wants Gopal to be arrested as well. Shekhar and Neelam struggle to cope with their emotions when Ujjwal’s cake for his 14th birthday arrives.
The authorities try to give money to Shekhar and Neelam again, but they reject the offering and continue to fight. N. Suri begins to question his actions when Ansal’s men resort to violence to keep people quiet.
A memorial for all those that succumbed during the incident is arranged as Sushil is freed from his arrest. The case finally reaches court by the AVUT’s prosecutor fumbles and struggles to fend off the defence.
When the prosecution gains momentum, the defence decides to question Neelam Krishnamoorthy as the witness with the intention to rattle her.
The defences questions whether Neelam is this passionate about taking the Ansals to jail because she wants to gain fame. Neelam’s response is heartfelt and their case is made more substantial.
Meanwhile, a theatre worker struggles to pay a debt on the day of the fire in 1997. He takes the Ansals’ guests to a special box seat, from where they were able to safely escape when the fire occurred.
Shekhar meets an old friend who is unaware of the fire and takes him to a movie theatre. He starts feeling suffocated due to his past trauma and leaves.
A flashback to 1997 shows an army officer named Hardeep Bedi filled with regret after withdrawing from war. This seeps into his marriage.
He and his wife eventually talk it out and reconcile. They decide to go and watch Border at Uphaar cinema after Hardeep decides not to take his former Army colleague with him.
Neelam finds proof that the Ansal brothers tampered with evidence which would put them in jail. They had been in charge of the day-to-day operations at the time of the fire but tweaked the resolution to show that they had resigned from the board of the theatre before the incident.
But the members of AVUT decide that they need to be put behind bars for negligence, not tampering. If they’re arrested for the latter, it wouldn’t bring about change in the safety measures across the country.
Trial By Fire ending explained in detail:
Who is Veer Singh?
The morning of the tragedy, an electrician named Veer Singh had been assigned to repair a transformer that had already caught a small fire. This very transformer also caused the incident.
The Ansal Brothers planned to pin this entire incident on the negligence of the electricity board and Veer Singh.
He was very much aware of this but they kept offering him incentives to be a scapegoat. They provided him with financial support and got his daughter married.
What exactly happened on the day of the fire?
On the day of the tragedy, Ujjwal and Unnati reached the theatre but entered before Arjun could arrive as he was late. Hardeep and his wife wanted the box seat, but couldn’t get it as the Ansal Brothers’ guests occupied it.
The theatre employee who guided the guests to the box seats was also responsible for the backdoor entry of Kishan Lal’s family as well as locking the hall.
As the transformer caught fire, the theatre’s manager, Arora, carried the Ansals’ money to safety and called the fire department after over 20 minutes.
The unaware movie watchers started getting a sniff of the smoke and realised their predicament. This caused chaos as everybody ran for their lives.
Unnati and Ujjwal died due to the smoke, while Hardeep lost his life after falling into the fire. His wife could only look on in agony. Kishan Lal’s entire family succumbed as well. Only a handful of those inside the hall survived, including Hardeep’s wife.
Were the Ansal Brothers jailed?
In the present day, the AVUT reaches 70% of their agenda. All public schools in Delhi are set to have a fire extinguisher on every floor.
Realising that they have created an impact, the AVUT resorts to using the tampering of evidence by the Ansal Brothers to put them behind bars.
In the end, it is revealed that on November 9, 2021, the Ansal Brothers were finally sentenced for tampering with evidence, but were released just six months later.