Verdict - We, Will, Choose To Pay For The Faulty Electricity Bills Instead Of Watching This Film
There was one time in Christmas, I chanced upon this idea of making a rum and raisin cake. Given it was one of the fanciest recipes that I have ever tried, I made sure the ingredients were top notch. I got the butter from a special place, got the best rum, checked the recipes on YouTube some 200 times and made sure I followed them to the T. The cake, however, turned to be an unholy alliance between halwa and dhokla. Till date, I have not been able to figure out what went wrong.
Batti Gul Meter Chalu reminded me of that cake. The film had all the trappings of a superhit social drama with the right amount of romance, comedy, and friendship, but derails so bad that sitting 10 minutes into the movie I was already itching to check my phone.
The film is more or less what the trailer tells you and all the other twists that are there adds nothing extra to the film and that is exactly the problem of this film. Three friends, two ‘seedha sadha’ and one craft and street smart, faulty bills, suicide, awakened conscience and a court case that mobilizes public opinion about a relevant issue that never gets the importance it is dire need of. Shree Narayan Singh, who made the superhit and wonderfully crafted Toilet: Ek Prem Katha is clearly still not out of the hangover of his last movie and serves us the insipid version of the same stale dish, in, at the most, a different looking plate. The movie tries to achieve a lot of things and thus forgets its actual objective. The director is thoroughly confused about whether he wants to make the movie into a comedy or a serious drama and instead of striking a balance, stumbles back and forth between these two extremes.
As a result, neither the comedy works nor the social drama, nor the story between these three friends and their unique dynamics and definitely not the courtroom drama. Even the attempt to tell the story in flashback by two passengers named Vikas and Kalyan falls totally flat. It just looks a desperate attempt to be creative and smart but is as unnecessary and pointless to watch the film.
A lawyer reading erotica in a court while the other is trying to snatch the book from him ain’t funny, its just confusing and a tad bit offensive. Also Shahid saying ‘aap ke rehete main figure ki baat kaise karun’ to the female lawyer fighting the case against him, in the courtroom, is exactly the kind of behavior that women are protesting against in the workplace. Not only is it in bad taste but it is also strangely hypocritical for a movie that talks about the relevant issue. We cannot pick and chose sensitivity to match our narratives.
The most unfortunate part about the film is that it has wasted some really good performances. Shahid as S.K. the ‘chant’ lawyer is smooth as always, Shradhha Kapoor doesn’t disappoint too much and it is great to see Divyendu Sharma getting the importance that an actor of his caliber deserves. However, supporting cast which include names like Supriya Pilgaonkar, Farida Jalal, Sudhir Pandey, Atul Srivastava, and even Yami Gautam have not been given anything to do. Why have such amazing actors in your cast when you do not plan on using them?
The worst offender of the movie is its desperate attempt to get the dialect of the place right.I am not really sure the dialect they were trying to get was Kumaoni or Garhwali, but it sounds ok as they get most of it right but the use of ‘bal’ and ‘thehra’ is so exasperating that it undoes whatever little authenticity they were trying to bring into the narrative. The ‘bal’ and 'thehras’ are so disturbing that it actually takes your focus away from the narrative. Every time you try to get absorbed in a scene, all you can think about is how annoying the forced ‘bal’ and ‘thehras’.
One of my personal reasons to watch the film was its setting. Its refreshing to see Tehri on screen. the quaint little city, the valleys, the meandering Ganga is a splendid sight to behold, but the makers do not allow you to enjoy even that for too long. One almost feels like screaming ‘ I get that Tehri is beautiful and you have a drone’ due to the maddening frequency of the drone shot that appears every five minutes does not let you enjoy even the Uttarakhand Tourism ad vibe they were trying to go for perhaps.
As if all of this was not enough, the editing of the film is bad throughout and is perhaps the only consistent aspect of the film. The pace is jerky and sluggish and even at a decent duration of 2 hours, the film feels like it has been going on forever.
To give credit where its due, the film has its moments, but the bad accent, indulgent camera work, lack of direction on the part of the director and an over-ambitious hotch-potch makes sure that the fate of this film is going to be dark. What could have been a simple social drama about a relevant issue set against a beautiful backdrop turns into a bigger offender than the bill of 54 lakhs that the electricity company sends and the set the events rolling.