Batti Gul Meter Chalu
Cast: Shahid Kapoor, Shraddha Kapoor, Divyenndu Sharma, Yami Gautam and Atul Srivastava
Director: Shree Narayan Singh
There are a few things that really stand out in Shree Narayan Singh’s Batti Gul Meter Chalu, and chief among them is its female protagonist Lalita Nautiyal (Shraddha Kapoor). This may get some riled-up responses, especially from those who would want to watch the film for Shahid Kapoor, but it’s her portrayal that speaks the most in the film.
Lalita is someone who likes to live her life on her own terms. She is a hard-willed, energetic young woman who aspires to become a fashion designer. She thinks she is no less talented than Bollywood’s ace couturiers Manish Malhotra and Rohit Bal.
She finds happiness in small things. For instance, she prefers a cup of tea and home-made food over dining at a posh eatery. Lalita aka Nauti’s life revolves around her two friends Sundar Narayan Tripathi (Divyenndu Sharma) and Sushil Kumar Pant aka SK (Shahid Kapoor). Tripathi is a little introvert and is scared of taking risks in life because he doesn’t want to lose.
Exact his opposite is Shahid’s SK, a lawyer, who has always believed that generosity won’t take you to places and earning money by using dirty tricks isn’t wrong. Little does he know that all this will come to bite him back one day when his friend Tripathi would commit suicide after being under-pressure to pay a hefty amount of Rs 54 lakh as his electricity bill.
Batti Gul Meter Chalu mirrors some harsh realities. Even after 70 years of Independence, power is not available or partially available. The idea of basing the film in Uttarakhand only adds to the authenticity of the issue.
Apart from a few sexist jibes, the film works quite well. Consider this: Advocate Gulnaar (Yami Gautam) wants to talk about facts and figures in the court and SK replies, “I have all the facts with me and when you are here how I can talk about figure?" You know what I mean!
The writers have focused well on the secondary characters. Atul Srivastava and Sudhir Pandey have been given good character arcs. Shahid brings just the right amount of flippancy to Batti Gul Meter Chaalu. Shraddha and Divyenndu shine as well. Wish we could see more of Farida Jalal and Supriya Pilgaonkar.
Halfway in the film, you may start mumbling ‘it’s an old wine in new bottle,’ but it has definitely got its own elements. Though you know how exactly it will end, there are enough good performances and entertainment to keep us hooked.
There is, however, a notable difference between how Kumaonis actually speak their dialect and the way the entire cast of Batti Gul Meter Chalu speak in the film. All Kumaoni that we could hear in the film is “Bal” and “Laata” (stupid). The only actor who gets the accent right is Brijendra Kala. But I’m ready to ignore this, thanks to the charming simplicity of the characters.
There are problems, of course. The film doesn’t shy away from getting over-dramatic, especially in the second half. However, it refrains from being preachy, a welcome move.
The court scenes, which were supposed to be the highlight of the film, take away the sheen of an otherwise watchable film.
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