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Prashant Nair, creator of Trial By Fire, based on the Uphaar cinema tragedy, says this is a story of courage, resilience and persistence in the face of challenges

Prashant Nair, creator of Trial By Fire, based on the Uphaar cinema tragedy, says this is a story of courage, resilience and persistence in the face of challenges


The fateful Friday, June 13, 1997…Exactly 26 years after on Friday, January 13, a limited series, Trial By Fire, traces over two-decade- long struggle of parents for justice.

Prashant Nair

The Uphaar Cinema fire tragedy took 59 lives and left over a hundred injured. Among those who died were Neelam and Shekhar Krishnamoorthy’s two teenage children. In their fight for justice, Prashant Nair, creator of the show, found inspiration to carry on despite odds.

It’s indeed an honour to be a part of this project. Neelam is an inspiring character to play and was a lot of hard work, especially as the story pans out over two decades. Whenever I approach a role I tap into the character’ emotional, mental state to some extent physicality too. Trial By Fire is one series that must be watched by everyone so that what happened isn’t repeated, ever. Rajshri Deshpande

Equally nervous and excited, as the show inches closer to release, Nair opens up, “I was moved by the story of the Krishnamoorthys. Theirs is a story of courage and resilience and persistence in the face of challenges.”

The show’s producer Sidharth Jain shared this story and Nair felt that it was something that needed to be told. “Cinemas are a part of ordinary life. Many a time, we allow our children to watch a movie while we parents shop at the mall. The basic assumption is that cinemas are safe. What transpired in the Uphaar tragedy and how Krishnamoorthys showed exemplary strength is a story that we found stirring and worth telling.

Rajshri Deshpande

The series is based on the bestselling book, Trial by Fire: The Tragic Tale of the Uphaar Fire Tragedy, by Neelam and Shekhar Krishnamoorthy. “The reference point for the series was the book, supplemented by our own research,” adds Nair.

Born in Chandigarh, Nair, an engineer, worked as a social entrepreneur before he decided to follow his passion and head to the film industry. Directing films like Delhi In A Day, Umrika and web series Made in Heaven, Nair believes in the power of the stories.

Picking up a real story, not far into the past, has been a challenging ride. “Telling such a story comes with a responsibility, ensuring that it’s a sensitive portrayal and that the survivors or their emotions are not exploited in any way,” says Nair. He and his team were moved to the core during this journey. “There are no words to describe the pain of the parents who lost their children. The responsibility to bring out their story to the screen in the most sensitive way possible was shared by our entire crew.”

They found their lead characters in Abhay Deol and Rajshri Deshpande. “It was a challenging role and we approached Abhay Deol and were fortunate that he came on board. We reached out to Rajshri Deshpande and she agreed for an audition. As she enacted a scene, we were so moved that instantly we knew that we had found our Neelam,” says Nair.

Nair has spent many a summer in the City Beautiful. “I have fond memories of spending time with my grandparents, playing cricket in the parks in Sector 8 and 35 and going for movies. Post their demise coming to Chandigarh took a pause but I came here last year and was pleasantly surprised the city has retained its charm!” Nair is looking forward to the audience response. “I believe in telling stories that make an impact. I hope this story raises consciousness, and makes a valid point for public safety and justice system.” This web series has been rather draining. Nair intends to take a break from reality and his next two projects are fictional. Produced by Endemol Shine India and House of Talkies, this human drama also stars Rajesh Tailang, Ashish Vidyarthi, Anupam Kher, Ratna Pathak, Shilpa Shukla and Shardul Bharadwaj. It streams from January 13 on Netflix.

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