Webmaster | September 22, 2018
Rating – 4/10
Every film industry in the world hits a plateau every once in a while, where a streak of films are produced that deal with current social issues that are hampering the world and its development. It guarantees automatic promotion (sometimes even sponsored by the government) and viewership. Director Shree Narayan Singh probably started the streak in India in 2017 with Toilet: Ek Prem Katha where he fueled the propaganda surrounding cleanliness and lack of outdoor toilets in rural India. Almost a year after winning accolades with Toilet, Singh is back albeit without the substance.
Shahid Kapoor tries hard and comes last in his portrayal of a roughed-up and unscrupulous lawyer along with his two friends who together form a love triangle. His best friend, played by Divyendu Sharma, is the protagonist. His character is a small business owner troubled by a series of astronomical power bills. Despite the comfort of the woman of his life (Shraddha Kapoor), he is unable to resolve the issues related to electricity, which seems to be also the issue of millions of others in the state of Uttarakhand, India. Batti Gul Meter Chalu is an unevenly paced social drama that sheds light on to the concepts of customer fraud by private power distribution companies and electricity theft. One of its main problems starts with the fact that the film takes off only after the intermission.
With initial emphasis on Shahid’s foolish and near-retard acts in the film, Singh projects a story borrowed from the 90s of Bollywood to create Batti Gul Meter Chalu. There is only one point that he makes, and that point has been made countless times in other media. So, is the film entertaining? I would slant to the negative given that he uses romance and forced humor to invite his audience to a party and then when they arrive asks them to pay up upfront.
What seems like a respite in the second half with the shift from petty romance to a courtroom drama turns into a mockery of the highest degree (even compared with Shubhash Kapoor’s Jolly LLB movies) as Shahid’s character goes full retard – in front of the magistrate and fellow audience – to pull off a few dirty, sexist, and ill-timed jokes so that the audience can laugh and forget that everything that’s happening is not only illogical but majorly strained. The little comedy relief that’s present in the 150-minute preach does not come to rescue the film when it jumps neck-down into a sea of its own mistakes. The poorly choreographed songs are the least of these mistakes as all the bickering and the convenience in the final minutes puts you entirely off.
I am severely afflicted by Shahid’s over-energetic yet foolish performance, almost half a year after seeing him stay shut in Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s epic Padmaavat (2018). His character is a bit of a masochist, and I agree that there’s some characterization there. But then it doesn’t make me empathize with him, which spoils it for me. Shraddha puts on her usual hat and plays love-love with her two “potential beau” characters, blurting out cardboard dialogues in a dialect that is again a source of annoyance. I don’t mind when actors put on a different accent and experiment with different dialects to tell a story in a better way, but Batti Gul Meter Chalu uses a few default words and spreads them across the script, making the characters and their speech look plastic. Divyendu Sharma follows Shraddha’s attitude and does what he does best: use his anti-baritone voice to give long speeches. The supporting cast do a decent job but the focus is so much on the stars, you wish why this wasn’t a low-budget 5-minute short film involving only those three. Yami Gautam is confident but I would say the opposite about her dialogues and role in general.
The division in genres into the two halves, sheer horseplay in and outside of the court, and zero proximity to realism are what makes Batti Gul Meter Chalu a coarse, dull film. Much like the issue that it addresses, a lot many parts in the film are akin to darkness, which is not ideal in a world of flashing lights.
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