Trial by Fire on Netflix is based on a tragic true story in Delhi, 1997

By Louie Fecou
Published: January 13, 2023 (Last updated: January 21, 2024)
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Trial by Fire on Netflix is based on a tragic true story in Delhi, 1997
Trial by Fire Image (Credit to Netflix)

The Uphaar Cinema tragedy was one of the most devastating incidents in recent Indian history, and the Netflix series, Trial by Fire, is a true story based on these events. A fire started on Friday, 13 June 1997, at the Cinema in Green Park, Delhi, while people were at the screening of the movie Border. Fifty-nine people were trapped inside and died of asphyxiation, while 103 were seriously injured.

Is Trial by Fire on Netflix based on a true story?

Sadly, the drama is based on actual events that occurred in Delhi in 1997 at The Uphaar Cinema Tragedy.

The Netflix Hindi language series follows the tragic story of parents Neelam and Shekhar Krishnamoorthy, and their struggle for justice after a fire at a cinema claimed their two children. Twenty years after the fire, the couple is still fighting for justice, and this show explores the horrific repercussions in the aftermath of the fire.

A book was written by Neelam and Shekhar Krishnamoorthy, who lost their two children in the fire and began a campaign for justice for the victims.

What happened in the Uphaar Cinema fire tragedy in Delhi in 1997?

The real horror of the tragedy that occurred at the cinema is that by all accounts, the fire could have been avoided. At 6.55 am on the morning of the tragedy, there was an incident with a large transformer that was on the ground floor of the building. The equipment had caught fire and exploded alerting a security guard who contacted the fire brigade who attended and quickly brought the fire under control. After this initial event, an inspection of the transformer by the Superintendent of the DVB and his team showed damage to cables, and repairs were carried out mid-morning.

By 11.30 am, the incident had been allegedly resolved. However, it seems that repairs were not enough for this equipment and a hole would burn through a radiator fin. Leaking oil from the hole would eventually combust, around 5 pm on the day of the fire. Dangerous black smoke would eventually find its way into the auditorium, and people would start to succumb to the poisonous gas.

The power to the cinema was cut off, but this resulted in absolute chaos in the building. As the crowds tried to escape, they found there was no emergency lighting or staff to help. One of the most noxious revelations was the middle doors of the balcony had been locked during the screening of the film, and the worker at the time had left his post without handing the duty over to his replacement.

In another shocking revelation, it seems that additional seating that had been installed also blocked and restricted exits. These events were only part of a series of disasters that led to the tragic final outcome of the fire.

As the fire raged, and people began to suffocate due to the smoke, there were several attempts to rescue the patrons. One such attempt was made by an off-duty Captain Manjinder Singh Bhinder of the Indian army who attempted to help others out of the inferno. The incident resulted in the death of fifty-nine people, and a further one hundred and three people were seriously injured.

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