Cast: Shahid Kapoor, Shraddha Kapoor, Divyendu Sharma, Yami Gautam
Director: Shree Narayan Singh
A nearly three-hour long slow-topical issue-based film generates palpable curiosity only if it’s engaging enough to keep viewers glued to all the action unfolding on screen. After the success of Toilet: Ek Prem Katha, director Shree Narayan Singh comes up with another burning concern that plagues many Indian states: frequent power cuts. He probably believed that by blending formulae and a burning subject, he had another winner on his hands. This time around too, with plausible basic material and factual details, coupled with all the noble objective of entertaining us, he could have had every cinematic vision fulfilled. Only if he stuck to telling a story that was intended. Cramming inessential particulars that take the essence of the film away into a love-triangle zone, Batti Gul Meter Chalu spends too much time converging what is wished for — a well-intended social drama about escalating electricity bills. Overstretching a problem that millions of Indians face every day, this melodrama becomes a big yawn and drifts away from its core theme. At one point I thought I was watching a remake of Raj Kapoor-Vyjayanthimala-Rajendra Kumar film Sangam.
Three childhood friends, Sushil Kumar Pant or SK (Shahid Kapoor), Nauti (Shraddha Kapoor) and Sundar Mohan Tripathi (Divyendu Sharma) have grown up together in Tehri, Uttarakhand, and have distinctive characteristic traits. While SK is a mean lawyer who makes money on the side by conning people into resolving out-of-court settlements, Nauti is an over-the-top fashion designer oozing with overconfidence to outdo hotshot designers Manish Malhotra and Rohit Bal someday. Tripathi counts on SK for every small little thing, lives with his middle-class parents and is contentedly running the family printing business. It is no surprise that the two young men are also in love with Nauti. Meanwhile, two incidents threaten to take the ostensibly seamless story off-track: Sushil finding out about Nauti choosing Sundar over him, and an inflated electricity bill of `54 lakhs that Sundar is unable to cough up leading to a major financial crisis for Sundar’s family.
When a highly stressed Sundar is unable to look for a practical solution to solve the problem, he is left with no option but to disappear and commit suicide. He would never allow his ancestral home to be sold to pay off the debt, and so, he believes that his death would thus help his father pay up with the insurance money that the family would receive. Till this point, the film shows promise as a shocked and disheartened Sushil determined to turn over a new leaf, and is all geared up to bail out his friend’s family at any cost. As he sets out to fight out against SPTL, the privatised electricity company responsible for the astronomical bills, a courtroom session with advocate Gulnaar (Yami Gautam) representing the corporate, begins.
Both Shahid and Shraddha with their mannered performances, hokey dialogue and virtually no chemistry between them, fail to enliven the film by their presence. In fact, their deliberate attempt at perfecting the local lingo sounds so staggeringly awful that Sharma’s effort to brighten up some moments of this 164-minute film seems goes unnoticed. Those somehow unacquainted with the vast canon of courtroom material would know what a hearing entails, particularly involving a petition with two opposing lawyers in the presence of a judge (here, it’s Sushmita Mukherjee).
Telling Bollywood writers what “contempt of court” means is futile: barring in a few films, an actor usually displays lung power to showcase dramatics, which is far too overpowering than any decorum, or even a semblance of discipline in any court. Sushil, after a change of heart behaves most arrogantly making sexist remarks in court, just short of doing a Sunny Deol from the Punjabi actor’s many hit films. And before you wonder why such histrionics was required, some flagrant lines on “Badhiya din…” with an obvious allusion to the “Achche din...” are thrown in heedlessly in court.
At this point, while the court proceedings are on, a twist in the tale leads to all opportunities to comment on the ethical grey areas of suicide are mostly squandered and, instead, a sermon follows stringing together all the pieces of all that has piled up. Singh allows Shahid as Sushil to drum out everyone from the courtroom, including a nondescript Mukherjee, with his one-note story. Both the Kapoors are loud and overplay. Occasionally, a natural Sharma is the only one, whom you like. Yami Gautam’s appearance is too limited to allow any impression, good or bad.
The writer is a film critic and has been reviewing films for over 15 years. He also writes on music, art and culture, and other human interest stories....