People living in metropolitan cities in India may not be affected so much by it, but frequent electricity cuts and exorbitant bills paid by innocent consumers is a rampant issue faced by many in the interiors. Shree Narayan Singh tackles this menace in his second film, Batti Gul Meter Chalu, after earning a hit with his first feature, Toilet Ek Prem Katha, that also had a social message to tell. With popular stars Shahid Kapoor and Shraddha Kapoor playing the leads, Batti Gul Meter Chalu has the potential to make sure its message reaches the masses. It's another sad fact that the film is so lame-brained that we wish the director had also done justice to the script as well, that he does in his filmy court.
Susheel Kumar Pant aka SK (Shahid Kapoor), Lalita Nautiyal aka Nauti (Shraddha Kapoor) and Sunder Tripathi (Divyendu Sharma) live in Tehri in Uttarakhand and have been best friends since childhood, in spite of having different attitudes to Life and ambitions. SK is a cunning lawyer who extorts money from businesses by blackmailing them using their false advertising as charges. Nauti has her own embroidery shop and plans to become the next Manish Malhotra. Sunder has started his own factory of manufacturing readymade clothes. Both of the boys are in love with the girl, and when she chooses one of them, it creates a rift in their friendship. When Shahid Kapoor Met YouTuber Ashish Chanchlani for Batti Gul Meter Chalu Promotions – Watch Video.
Tehri has been facing frequent power cuts, which the residents have accepted as a part and parcel of their lives and make jokes about it. Sunder gets the most affected when his factory receives huge electricity bills from the corrupt board run by SPTL, running up to Rs 54 lakhs. He doesn't get any help from the consumer forums and his house is under the fear of getting mortgaged over the increasing loans. When his estranged friend refuses to help him, Sunder commits suicide so that his family can claim insurance. His 'death' pricks the conscience of SK, who is determined to take SPTL to court and win justice for his friend and many other cheated consumers.
There is one thing I have to appreciate about Shree Narayan Singh, the editor-cum-director of the film. His films address issues that affect many parts of our country that need a mass outreach for others to notice. His first film, Toilet Ek Prem Katha, was about the lack of basic toilet facilities in many villages in the North. He also knows how to package these social messages in a narrative that the general audience can digest.
The issue is how that narrative gets tied up in both the films. Speaking specifically about Batti Gul Meter Chalu, the movie very superficially tackles the corruption in private-owned electricity boards, never exploring the issue in depth, except being addressed in the long monologues in court scenes (do notice that state electricity boards are not the villains here).
In the first half, Singh is rather invested in a love triangle which adds little to the larger scheme of things. I have to be honest, I was entertained in some portions here. The triangle looked silly, with Nauti dating both the guys for a week each and then choosing one of them, basically copying Splitsvilla (Yup, even the much-ridiculed show is an inspiration here). The whole sequence was cheesy but still, it never bored me and its conclusion was surprising. It also helped that the actors felt like real pals and Divyendu's character, for a change, had a proper shot. Even the chosen guy gets surprised that he has a chance, when his street-smart competitor has girls in the town fawn over him, including the former's sister. Ah, the perks of being played by a Bollywood A-lister.
However, in the process, the real issue takes a backseat, as Sunder's electricity board woes never get the seriousness it demands. So when Sunder takes the drastic step, we never feel the seriousness and the drama that the situation demanded. The movie runs at two hours, forty minutes runtime, and seeing how the love story hoards up so much screentime, it needed some serious trimming. Well, at least, this gives us our leading man that much-needed prick of conscience, just like it did with Akshay Kumar in Toilet... I expected the second half to finally focus on the reason why we have come to watch the film.
It does, as SK takes legal discourse against the corrupt board in the second half. These portions have some mass-appealing moments, even though the Sangam-like love triangle often tries to derail the main plot. However, it's in these scenes that we really see the inadequacies of the script and the director to make an engaging drama, instead of playing to the galleries. You can also pick out the influences of Lage Raho Munna Bhai and Oh My God! here.
The courtroom room sequences, which should have been the strength of Batti Gul Meter Chalu, end up being farcical. Yami Gautam's defense lawyer gives no real opposition to our leading man, as she often ends up being the punching bag of SK's misogynistic jokes, that the court even allows (a trait we also saw in TEPK). She doesn't even get a closing statement, as the movie is rather focused on making the lead man a glorified hero, and the legal drama completely one-sided. Not to mention, the woman also falls for him in the end! All hail the Bollywood hero!
At least, there is a silver lining here - SK, in one of his many open-throated speeches, does touch upon how electricity boards make huge profits out of little things that we barely notice. He also points out the irony of having the whole country electrified and yet people evacuate from villages due to a shortage of power. However, these little nuggets get lost in the OTT theatricality, where people in the courtroom end up clapping for SK as he closes his mouth every goddamn time.
This is quite shameful as we have some really good and impactful courtroom dramas in Bollywood in recent times, like PINK and the underrated and more powerful Mulk. In Batti Gul, sadly, there is no place for nuances or layers, as the scriptwriters play with conveniences, silly viral video ideas and one-dimensional caricatures. Batti's Uttarakhand characters speak in rhythmic slangs whose sentences often end with the word 'ball'. The only person to even have a little arc is SK, because of obvious reasons.
At least, Shree Narayan Singh keeps his right-wing leanings to the minimal in contrast to what he did in his first movie, though he does play a lot with 'Vikas' and 'Kalyan'. The locales of Uttarakhand add a quaint charm to the film. The music is okay, though Har Har Gange is impactful. Batti Gul Meter Chalu Music Review: Har Har Gange Saves The Album of Shahid Kapoor-Shraddha Kapoor's Film From Being a Let-Down!
It is a Shahid Kapoor movie all the way, as the actor gets in touch with chichora side once again after Kaminey and R...Rajkumar. Shahid Kapoor tries hard, perhaps a bit too much, as the confident lawyer, and he lifts up many weak scenes with his performances. I only wish that the makers could have dialled down his roguish charm in the courtroom scenes, to keep the focus on the matter in discussion rather than the man who is doing the fight.
Shraddha Kapoor has improved a lot as an actress, but her recent roles often do injustice to her in respect to that development. Like Stree, even in Batti Gul Meter Chalu, she often takes a backseat when Shahid's character dominates the proceedings, mostly giving wistful glances towards the hero. She gets to shine in the first half where her bubbly performance is winsome.
Divyendu Sharma is decent, but he restrains himself too much in trying to be the Mr Nice Guy, who comes in his elements only in the company of SK. But he gets a lot of scope in the first half, and his character gives the film its surprise element. I can only sympathise with Yami Gautam, as her character ends up at the receiving end of the film's misogynistic views. Sudhir Pandey, Farida Jalal, Supriya Salgaonkar, Sharib Hashmi, Samir Soni get a little scope to make an impact.
- The message
- Shahid Kapoor
- Some entertaining moments
- The faulty script
- Lack of focus
- Too long
- Does make the required impact
Batti Gul Meter Chalu has its heart in its right place, but for a movie to be called good, it deserves to have a great body and soul too. That's where the film falls miles short of being a good entertainer, despite Shahid's best efforts. As his protagonist ends his closing statement, I am not sure if Tehri's residents will get their bulbs to shine once again, but our patience surely loses its fuse! Here, the Batti often gets Gul!