‘Batti Gul Meter Chalu’ review: well-intentioned but artistically deadbeat and dull

Shahid Kapoor in an image from ‘Batti Gul Meter Chalu’   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

First things first, Batti Gul Meter Chalu is way too long. It refuses to cut the chase, right from the start—in setting things up and introducing the characters—till the end, in the overdrawn court room scenes that give a wannabe Jolly LLB feel. We could desperately do with a Saurabh Shukla, though to liven things up in this one.

SK (Shahid Kapoor), Nauti (Shraddha Kapoor) and Tripathi (Divyyendu Sharma) are three friends—residents of Uttarakhand—whose relationship seems tantalisingly poised in the Jules et Jim zone. But rather than explore a Francois Truffaut like ménage à trois, Shree Narayan Singh is more righteously inclined. Batti Gul… is yet another one of the increasing genre of “social issues” cinema that might be well-intentioned but artistically deadbeat and dull, lulling the audience to sleep than engaging their interest in a worthy cause. It’s the kind of boredom that makes you focus on the expressions of the junior artistes in a song-n-dance number rather than paying attention to the hero-heroine in the foreground.

Batti Gul Meter Chalu
  • Director: Shree Narayan Singh
  • Cast: Shahid Kapur, Shraddha Kapoor, Divyyendu Sharma
  • Storyline: An inflated electricity bill results in a suicide that in turn leads to a court case and grassroots movement demanding transparency in the power distribution sector
  • Run time: 175.35 minutes

But then Singh chooses a subject with which you can do little to make it fly. Faulty meters, inflated electricity bills, the lack of power in Uttarakhand while it gets drained in the malls in urban centres—all this plays out too preachy on screen, despite a love story woven around it. The tone of the film is too high-pitched, the performances shrill and over the top—from the minor to the major roles, specially Shahid, an otherwise fine actor, who is made to ham like there is no tomorrow. On the flip side many a good actor—like Farida Jalal as Shraddha’s grandmother and Supriya Pilgaonkar as the mother—has little to do.

One chaotic scene follows another as the narrative runs helter-skelter. Also, in going deeper north (to Uttarakhand) as Bollywood is prone to these days, the director introduces the audience to a complicated mix of Kumaoni and Garhwali culture, throwing in words like dagad (saath in Hindi; to be in the company of/be together in English) and daajyu (dada in Hindi; elder brother in English) that the larger audience might not comprehend. This screen lingo punctuates the conversation of every Uttarakhandi individual on screen with a “thehra” and “bal” (typical of the speech pattern in the region).

Despite belonging to the region I must confess that I haven’t heard so many “thehra” and “bal” in a lifetime as I have in 175 minutes of the film. Hammering it in to make things seem more rooted? The forced tone, then actually ends up making highly annoying caricatures of the cast.

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Printable version | Sep 16, 2021 7:28:52 PM |

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