Paisa vasool courtroom drama
Let’s put this notion to rest. In a welcome respite, ‘Batti Gul Meter Chalu’ is not an elongated Public Service Announcement masquerading as a film, as ‘Toilet Ek Prem Kathaa’ was. This Shree Narayan Singh directorial is a scathing commentary on the plight of the other half of India that cannot access basic facilities such as electricity despite modernity and development stemming in, yet. Yes, the other half of the country whose aspirations and ambitions are yet to find the ‘light’ of the day.
Susheel Kumar Pant aka SK (Shahid Kapoor), Lalitha Nautiyal aka Naughty (Shraddha Kapoor) and Sundar Kumar Tripathi (Divyendu Sharma) are three thick childhood friends, who reside in Tehri, Uttarakhand. SK is a two cents lawyer who prefers making money more than establishing lifelong connections. Naughty is a fashion designer in the making who considers herself nothing short of Manish Malhotra. Sundar is the most relatable from the three who establishes his own printing and packaging business in the city’s central business district. How faulty electricity bills cut short Sundar’s life and what follows, makes the plot.
The film excels in the technical department for the most part. Cinematographer Anshuman Mahaley gives us touristy images of Haridwar, Rishikesh and Mussoorie inciting unintentional wanderlust. The screenplay and dialogues are the film’s trump card. Writers Siddharth-Garima crack the Kumaoni dialect giving the film’s characters, some clap-trap lines that will definitely connect with the audiences, based in the hinterland. The highlight of the film being the scenes staged in the courtroom. Costume designers Darshan Jalan and Neelanchal Kumar Ghosh add the colour to our characters though the costume choices are far too vibrant for small-town aesthetes. Production design by Udai Prakash Singh lends us a lived-in feeling of Tehri. However, the glitch here is the faulty editing by director Singh himself. A forced love triangle angle, needless introduction of supporting characters and two mindless songs derail the film’s first half. At two hours and fifty-five minutes, you start feeling that you’ve been inside the screen, forever.
Coming to the performances, ‘Batti Gul Meter Chalu’ is a Shahid Kapoor show, all the way. The actor couples charm, wit and street-side smartness to give us a memorable character. But his dramatic portions are unintentionally funny. He appears as if Ranveer Singh has possessed him. Shraddha Kapoor is earnest as well. Following closely to the success of her latest release, ‘Stree’, it’s a welcome change to see Miss. Kapoor making an effort to lose the pretty-girl-next-door image. Divyendu is a revelation too. Its somehow discomforting as to why is he limiting himself to secondary roles when his contemporaries (read Kartik Aaryan) are landing lead roles. Same applies for Yami Gautam, who is sincere as defense lawyer Gulnar Rizvi, but sadly isn’t given much screen space to explore her best potential. Sushmita Mukherjee as the cricket-enthusiast judge is a complete hoot. The rest of the cast can barely make their presence felt.
‘Batti Gul Meter Chalu’ is an intentionally honest film that could’ve hit the bull’s eye had it been trimmed down by its running length. Nevertheless, it’s a great watch this weekend, if you are a fan of entertaining films with a heart.