Cast: Shahid Kapoor, Shraddha Kapoor, Divyendu Sharma, Yami Gautam
Direction: Shree Narayan Singh
The thing about a dialect is that, when done well, it adds authenticity to a story, enhancing the local flavor. When, however, the diction goes awry it rankles like a jarring note. The language, or rather its mangling, robs this tale of the very impact that its dialogues were meant to have.
‘Batti Gul Meter Chalu’ wants to showcase a pertinent issue, but trips on many roadblocks, much like a constantly tripping electricity connection in the small Uttarakhand town the story is set in.
A young entrepreneur’s (played by Divyendu Sharma) dreams of running a successful business hit a dead end when he is asked to cough up a hefty amount for an inflated electricity bill. His friends, played by Shahid Kapoor and Shraddha Kapoor, decide to take on the private electricity company and make them accountable for overcharging consumers.
The director, Shree Narayan Singh, in his attempt to keep this drama light and entertaining ends up diluting a very serious issue. The entire courtroom drama plays out like a joke. There is a thin line between adding humour to court proceedings and making the entire case look like a mockery. Shahid and Yami as, respectively, the prosecution and the defense lawyers seem not only inept at debating a case of an unfortunate ‘alleged’, they are also incapable of following the general courtroom decorum.
It is, in fact, difficult to take these two seriously as lawyers in sequences that play out more like a street play and less like a High Court case.
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Shahid plays both his fun and serious avatars in an over-the-top manner. His character has a lot of interesting shades – a dispassionate lawyer, a jealous lover, a selfish friend, but also someone who has isn’t afraid of taking on the powerful. However, despite the many layers, he fails to convince us with his performance.
Shraddha fails to showcase whatever limited range she has an actor. She comes across as shrill as the happy-go-lucky young tailor. Her turn lacks texture of any kind and the character seems the least nuanced of the whole lot.
The one person whose sincerity shines through is the protagonist’s. Divyendu Sharma rises above this middling narrative with a a praiseworthy performance, infusing it with conviction and pathos. Your heart goes out to this timid character who wants to do the right thing, the right way, but just doesn’t seem to have what it takes.
‘Batti Gul Meter Chalu’ is a well-intentioned film that progresses at a laborious pace and doesn’t score high on the entertainment quotient. Do give it a shot because there’s definitely a message in it for all of us who are used to the comforts of uninterrupted electricity supply and have no idea about the issues faced by the small towns and villages.
We keep hearing about the electrification of India’s remote villages, but do we actually know how frequently rural households experience a single evening that isn’t plunged into absolute darkness by power cuts? Watch and find out.