Batti Is Gul In Parts

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 22 Sep 2018 10:25:55



Batti Gul Meter Chalu

By Farina Salim Quraishi

After raising a stink on India’s worst kept secret - open defecation - director Shree Narayan Singh is back to educate and entertain with a subject mostly pushed in the dark - of faulty electricity meters and inflated bills! Much like his earlier runaway success, Toilet-Ek Prem Katha, Batti Gul Meter Chalu is a socially-conscious film with all the traditional Bollywood trappings. With its heart in the right place and beating strongly for the problems of people in the heartland, Batti Gul Meter Chalu, true to its theme, flickers and sparks in spurts, fluctuating wildly before settling into a steady rhythm but taking rather too much time in the process.

Batti Gul Meter Chalu (BGMC), set in the picturesque town of Tehri, Uttarakhand, is about three childhood friends; Sushil Kumar Panth aka SK (Shahid Kapoor), Lalita Nautiyal aka Nauti (Shraddha Kapoor) and Sundar Mohan Tripathi (Divyenndu). While SK is a crafty lawyer not averse to blackmailing to earn moolah, Nauti dreams of becoming Manish Malhotra one day and designs the most outrageous clothes in town. The only sane voice of the group is Tripathi, who is all set to start his printing business in the town. Their friendship comes in for a test after Nauti decides to date both SK and Tripathi for a week each to choose her life partner.

The game which starts off on a light note, soon turns nasty after Nauti chooses Tripathi’s goodness over SK’s rakish ways. Trouble mounts further after Tripathi is handed an enormous electricity bill of Rs 54 lakhs just months after the printing press becomes operational. With a sulking SK refusing to help and power company officials shrugging off all responsibility, Tripathi is faced with a bleak future.

Full marks to the director for attempting to tell a socially-conscious tale even if it is the Bollywood way. Shree Narayan Singh knows the heartland of India, its people and their way of life, and it shows! Right from the realistic setting of the film to the problems and jugads by the people, down to the local dialect - nevermind the fact that the oft repeated bal grates on the ears - everything feels genuine. The simple solutions and resigned acceptance of absence of one’s fundamental right - electricity - drive home the gravity of power outrages and how easily the problem is dismissed by the aam janta. Narayan Singh has done his homework as well. From off-handedly tossed facts and figures (31 million houses sans electricity in 2018!), to urban milieu’s habit of disregarding rural problems to even power distribution companies’ callous attitude, all issues find a mention and then some more.

But all the good intentions and emotions of BGMC come to naught courtesy the shoddy script. The one-line story is stretched interminably to almost breaking point in the overlong melodramatic saga. Moreover the fact that entire gist of three-hour movie was shown in the three-minute trailer also doesn’t help matters. With almost all of the winning hands given away in the trailer itself, there is little left in the name of suspense.

Holding all but one surprise, the movie is low on novelty and is a classic example of too little and too late. By the time the suspense unfolds, one’s senses are just too jaded by the mindless romance and tuneless songs. The drama, melodrama and sustained focus on frivolities dilute the impact of the well-meaning film. And as the BGMC inches closer to the finish line, one is far too numbed to feel anything more than just passing interest in the events on the screen.

The first half is fluff and fun and all about the idyllic friendship and young romance. The profusion of songs, flashbacks and overdose of bonding makes it unbearably long and it drags. The pace picks up in the second half during the court battle. The courtroom drama is fun, provided one is not too picky about the cheesy humor. Shahid Kapoor goes the whole sleazy mile even as he as packs 100-watt punches as the prosecution attorney. But the proceedings soon loose their charm as the director takes forever to arrive at the forgone conclusion!

Among the cast, Shahid Kapoor is at his loudest best yet carries the movie on his impressively built shoulders. Playing the rakish rogue with just the right mix of chutzpa and charm, Shahid is in great form, though one will be hard-pressed to ignore the in-your-face hamming act by the Padmaavat actor. The post-interval somber shades of Shahid are impressive, but they soon vanish after he steps up the cocky quotient as local braveheart lawyer.

Shraddha Kapoor once again plays the tough- talking breezy girl without a single note deviation from the scores of similar roles she has played in the past. Despite the hideous clothes changing with alarming frequency all through, the set of expression at Shraddha’s disposal don’t. Divyenndu gets a meaty role and is not a mere side-kick this time round. Making most of the allotted screen time, Divyenndu fits in easily and leaves a mark. Yami Gautam is spirited as the defence lawyer in a small role. However, the seasoned actors, including Farida Jalal, Supriya Pilgaonkar and Sushmita Mulkherjee are given a raw deal and poor parts to play.

With the right emotional core and a pressing issue at hand, BGMC had great potential to shed light on the dark areas of power supply. But with too much melodrama and a watered-down worthy cause, Batti Gul Meter Chalu remains a great opportunity squandered away.

The Hitavada Rating: O O