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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 October 2018

Film review: Batti Gul Meter Chalu

Shahid Kapoor is the saving grace in this story of social interest for which director Sree Narayan Singh has failed to live up to expectations

Shahid Kapoor is the centre of attention in the movie Batti Gul Meter Chalu. Courtesy Hype PR
Shahid Kapoor is the centre of attention in the movie Batti Gul Meter Chalu. Courtesy Hype PR

Sree Narayan Singh has done it again. The Indian director, obsessed with doing movies with a social cause, has followed a great box office outing with a forgettable cinema flop.

Singh's filmography reflects a penchant to be bit different in approach, something which has backfired more times than it has hit the target. Starting with A Wednesday, his ride through Special 26, Rustom and Toilet: A Love Story has been pockmarked with duds like Hum Hai Raahi Car ke, Baby, MS Dhoni and the forgettable Missing.

As Shraddha Kapoor says in a dialogue in Batti Gul Meter Chalu (BGCM): "Ye Band-Bujh, Band-Bujh Kya Laga Rakhi?" "What is this stop-start, stop-start going on?"

The sad news is that the film is not the product it promised to be despite a valid subject for human interest. The good news is that it is not that forgettable either.

BGCM or Lights off, Meter on in English, explores the extent of electricity crisis in the Garhwal region of the Indian state of Uttarakhand.

Lalita Nautiyal (Shraddha Kapoor) is friends with Sushil Kumar Pant (Shahid Kapoor) and Sunder Mohan Tripathi (Divyenndu Sharma). Their friendship is so deep that they are all knowingly, jokingly and openly in a love triangle.

All that gets serious and comes to a head when Lalita decides to spend one week with each of them. She settles for Sunder who impresses as the boy next door-turned-businessman, while Sushil Kumar (SK), the lawyer, bullies people into coughing up money for their illegal ventures.

Why Lalita got so eager to pick one over the other and stage-manage her wedding is anyone's guess. Then to confuse matters, Sunder's sister tries to square up the situation by making a pass at SK. That fizzles out in the scene and the narrative moves on.

SK, hurt at being rejected becomes vengeful and goes away. Sunder's bid to be a factory owner comes unstuck with massively inflated electricity bills. His pleas to SK for help are initially ignored and Sunder goes missing, presumed dead.

The subsequent transformation – excellently portrayed by Shahid Kapoor – of how SK puts his anger aside to launch a legal battle against the energy company SPTL is where the movie picks a bit of slack. In between, Arijit Singh sings Har Har Gange to hit the conscience and is the lone saving grace in the music department.

Some hard-hitting facts and realities are doled out. Rather than letting those sink in, Singh hurries them along and poor Shahid has to keep up in delivering the punches and yet try to be comic like he was before.

SK picks holes in SPTL's defence, led by Gulnar Rizvi (Yami Gautam), and concludes saying if every person living in metros and Malls switches off their electricity for one hour, everyone in Uttarakhand will get electricity throughout the day. Objection! While there is water security, damn building and geographical challenges at play, the plot seemingly boils down to an instance of corrupt officials harassing people on the pretext of high demand of electricity.

No one is expecting the artist in Singh to deliver a masterpiece with every creation but the direction is very sloppy by any standard and certainly not expected from the director with some decent experience.

On a final note, there is an irritating overuse of words like "Bal" and "Thehra" which start boring you after a point even if they may be part of the local dialect. At least one avid film enthusiast wrote on Twitter saying she could not identify the dialogues as that from the Tehri region despite being a resident for 21 years.

Thankfully there were subtitles here in the UAE to grasp the meaning of a few words.