Netflix’s latest limited series, Trial By Fire, is based on the 1997 Uphaar Cinema Fire Tragedy. The series is based on a book by the same name – Trial by Fire: The Tragic Tale of the Uphaar Fire Tragedy. The book, written by Neelam and Shekhar Krishnamoorthy, follows the couple’s journey to seek justice for not only the lives of their children but of all the other victims.
The show, Trial By Fire, revolves around Neelam and Shekhar Krishnamoorthy (played by Rajshri Deshpande and Abhay Deol). Neelam and Shekhar lost their two children, Unnati and Ujjwal, in the tragedy.
Their children had gone to watch the matinee show of Sunny Deol’s Border. The Uphaar Cinema fire tragedy led to the loss of 59 lives and left 100 people severely injured in the stampede that followed the fire. Before you watch the series that paints a gut-wrenching picture of the tragedy, let’s take a look at the Krishnamoorthys.
Neelam and Shekhar Krishnamoorthy were engaged in business. But after the tragedy, their lives took a different turn. They decided to fight not only for their children but also for other families who had lost their loved ones in the tragedy. Their book opens with this heartbreaking line.
For Unnati and Ujjwal, with whom we spent the loveliest seventeen and thirteen years of our lives, and in whose memory we have spent the most traumatic nineteen years of our lives, seeking justice.Trial by Fire: The Tragic Tale of the Uphaar Fire Tragedy
Along with advocate KTS Tulsi, Neelam and Shekhar formed an organization named the Association of The Victims of Uphaar Tragedy (AVUT) when they saw that no solid action was taken against those behind the tragedy. They reached out to other families and started a legal battle against the Ansal Brothers – the owners of Uphaar Cinema. According to various reports, the tragedy was a result of sheer negligence and carelessness by the cinema and it could have, well, been avoided.
Speaking to Bar and Bench, Neelam said, “I didn’t know what the courts looked like, how they functioned, I knew nothing. Neither did Shekhar. But somewhere, we had been working with a lot of Europeans. I was well aware that our rights had to be protected and I realised that right to life of my children had been snatched away.”
In 2003, the Delhi High Court found the Ansals, Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD), Delhi Vidyut Board, and the licensing authority guilty of negligence. The High Court ordered the guilty to compensate the families of the victims with ₹25 crores. Almost 10 years later, that is in 2007, the Ansals were also sentenced to seven years as the court found them guilty of tampering with the evidence. In 2022, they were released from prison.
Speaking to Indian Express earlier this year, they said, “We didn’t spend as much time with our children on this Earth as we have seeking justice for their murders. We are serving a living death sentence; it has been 26 years, and it is still on.”
The Krishnamoorthys still live in their Noida residence and their fight is not over yet.