Film: Batti Gul Meter Chalu (Drama-Social)Cast: Shahid Kapoor, Shraddha Kapoor, Yami Gautam, DivyennduDirection: Shree Narayan SinghDuration:2 hours, 55 minutesLanguage: Hindi (U/A)Critic’s Rating: 3.5/5
Three inseparable childhood friends — a thrifty lawyer Sushil Kumar Pant aka SK (Shahid Kapoor), an over-the-top fashion designer Lalita ‘Nauti’ Nautiyal (Shraddha Kapoor) and a businessman Sundar Mohan Tripathi (Divyenndu) — are the life of the party in Garhwal, Uttarakhand. But each of them is diametrically opposite in nature.
Editor-director Shree Narayan Singh is quickly establishing himself as a maker who picks up causes — open defecation in ‘Toilet: Ek Prem Katha‘, inflated electricity bills and pilferage in ‘Batti Gul Meter Chalu (BGMC)‘ — and turns them into films that throw light on pressing matters in the heartland of India. However, there is a huge issue here. The trailer of BGMC clearly established the aim of his socially-relevant film in three minutes. Then to go ahead and make a nearly three-hour-long film to tell us more of the same thing is a travesty. Like the Censor Board, even filmmakers should know when to trim their films.
Having said that, let’s grant the devil his due. BGMC’s heartbeat feels correct. You also buy into the new-age actors’ constant refrain that movies are meant to enlighten, educate and entertain. However, here the entertainment bit falls out. The first half where the three friends are horsing around and singing, “Why go for tamba (copper) when you are getting gold’’ feels outdated and long drawn. Also, in this day and age, a Sangam (1964)-like triangle of getting Radha (here, it is Lalita) to choose between a Gopal and Sundar (SK and Sundar in this case) is yawn material.
There is zero chemistry in the love track and you’re absolutely indifferent to who the girl chooses because the whole build-up is too amateur. So much so that when one of the lovers jumps into the Ganga and temporarily resolves the ‘triangle’, you feel relieved that now you’ll see two instead of three bungling idiots. The film redeems itself in the second half where it takes on the actual electricity crisis of this country head-on. That a part of India is actually not even connected to the country’s national grid is a grim and sad fact.
The courtroom scenes between SK and Gulnar (Yami Gautam) are over the top and dramatic, but if you’re ready to be slightly chichora (cheap), you’ll enjoy the heartland humour. Also, the fact that the maker has studied the power scam issue so deeply and slapped the administration that is constantly talking of vikas (progress) and kalyan (prosperity) makes this an important film to watch. However, it is unforgivable if a movie educates and fails to entertain.
As for performances, Shahid is top-notch. The actor, who is in his prime, (he turned 37 in February) has matured into a fine talent and shows that he can shoulder a film on his own. Half a star in the film’s rating is reserved only for Shahid. Shraddha starts in a slightly over-the-top style, but she soon gets her act together and gives you a convincing small-town girl.
Divyenndu is always the best man, never the bridegroom. Yet, he manages to win himself notices. Yami is spirited in her special appearance as the defence lawyer. But the screen time allotted to her is minuscule.
The soundtrack by Anu Malik, Rochak Kohli and Sachet-Parampara is pleasant; if one song makes you swing, the other offers solace. You also get to experience the magic of Tehri, a virgin landscape, where the sights and sounds are different from those in our bustling cities. However, despite it all, there is a soul missing here because the premise is stretched.