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Movie Review: Batti Gul Meter Chalu

Banners: T-Series, Krti Pictures

Producers: Bhushan Kumar, Krishan Kumar, Nitinn Chandrachud, Shree Narayan Singh, Kusum Arora, Nishant Pitti

Director: Shree Narayan Singh

Cast: Shahid Kapoor, Shraddha Kapoor, Divyendu, Yami Gautam, Farida Jalal, Sudhir Pandey, Atul Srivastava, Supriya Pilgaonkar, Sushmita Mukherjee

Writers: Siddharth-Garima

Music: Anu Malik, Sachet-Parampara

Roti, kapda aur makaan are no longer the basic needs today. Add to this list another essential, bijli  or electricity. While those living in the metros take this resource for granted, there are still many small towns and villages in India where electricity is a distant dream. And places that do have electricity are ridden with corruption by the service providers, load-shedding and electricity theft. Batti Gul Meter Chalu attempts to address these issues with three protagonists who live in Tehri, Uttarakhand.

Sushil Kumar Pant aka SK, Lalita Nautiyal aka Nauti, and Sundar Tripathi are close friends. Their relationship is devoid of any ego hassles. While SK is a sly lawyer and will try every trick in the book to make money, Tripathi is a straightforward guy who works hard to start his own business. Nauti, who ties these two diametrically opposite friends together, is a dress designer.

But like most friendships, their relationship also enters the love zone. Both guys are in love with Nauti and she decides to give each of them a week before making a decision. And when she finally announces her decision, it creates a rift between these childhood friends.

To make matters worse, Tripathi ends up with a `54 lakh electricity bill. All these upheavals end in what seems like a tragedy. But this leads to some significant changes in SK and he sets out to wage war against the corrupt electricity corporation. His singular effort turns into a mass social movement. Just when things appear to be working in his favour, an interesting twist changes the direction of the narrative. Whether or not SK wins his war and is able to smoothen out his relationship with his friends is what the rest of the story is about.

Shree Narayan Singh, after tackling the issue of sanitation in Toilet Ek Prem Katha, takes on the problem of electricity in the Uttarakhand region. The research on the subject is impeccable. Along with writers Siddharth-Garima, he successfully uses humour and satire to talk about social issues. The film also brings to us some beautiful, never-seen-before sights, in Uttarakhand. The use of the native dialect works in favour of the film, maintains the authenticity of the region.

The songs are a good mix of fast melodies and soothing compositions and they do not hamper the flow of the story. But at five minutes short of three hours, Batti Gul Meter Chalu is a very long watch. The first half of the film is spent establishing the three lead characters and their relationships with each other. This dilutes the purpose that the film set out to achieve. Thankfully, 30 minutes before the interval, the film starts to move in the direction it set out. The use of two characters aptly called Vikas and Kalyan to narrate the story is interesting. The initial flickers end in a bright and resounding climax, which takes the film to its destination.

Performance-wise, Shahid Kapoor as Sushil Kumar Pant, once again, shines. As he transforms from a self-centred lawyer into a man who takes on a cause for the greater good, he delivers a strong and powerful performance. Shraddha Kapoor as Lalita Nautiyal is a little loud in the beginning but as the story moves forward, she manages to sink her teeth into her character and impresses. Divyendu as Sundar Tripathi gives a restrained performance and does his job well.

Atul Srivastava, who we have been seeing in quite a few films lately, delivers another sensitive and touching act as Sundar’s father. Sudhir Pandey as Sushil’s father has a few scenes but he brings in the humour. Supriya Pilgaonkar and Farida Jalal as Lalita’s mother and grandmother, respectively,  have very little screen time but they are a joy to watch. Sushmita Mukherjee as the judge brings a smile to your face. Yami Gautam as the defence lawyer appears much later in the film. Her interactions with Shahid Kapoor have a good mix of humour and drama.

Verdict: A socially relevant film that needs to be seen and heard.

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