Last year, Director Shree Narayan Singh had made the satirical, socially relevant Toilet: Ek Prem Katha, which made everyone sit up and take notice of a new, sensible filmmaker who could probably say something while also entertaining the masses. However, his followup, Batti Gul Meter Chalu, resembles his God-awful debut, Yeh Jo Mohabbat Hai (2012) way more than his sophomore effort, making you wonder if the latter was merely a flash in the pan.
The premise pretty much explained itself in the trailer. S.K. (Shahid Kapoor) and Tripathi (Divyendu Sharma) are chaddi-buddies in quaint Himachal town, with the former also serving as a somewhat unscrupulous lawyer who perennially makes a quick buck through out-of-court settlements. Nauti (Shraddha Kapoor), an over-the-top fashion designer with an inflated opinion of her work, is a other close friend of theirs, but it’s also clear from the onset that something more than friendship is simmering between her and S.K. Everything is happy-go-lucky till Tripathi decides to open a printing press, which also works well till the escalating electricity bills begin giving him sleepless nights. When a monthly bill comes knocking with the obscene sum of Rs. 54 lakh, Tripathi sees no way out of the mess, falls into depression, and takes his own life. This acts as a catalyst that finally awakens S.K. to his true worth as a lawyer, and he decides to battle the privatized electricity company in court.
By the time S.K. wakes from his slumber, Narayan Singh puts us into one courtesy his lacadaisical direction. It also doesn’t help that Sidhartha Singh’s script is extremely stretched and excessively dragged out with the same points repeated over and over again. Almost three hours of the same stuff becomes unbearable to sit through after a time. At some places you feel like yelling at the onscreen characters that ‘yes, we get it, bijli ka bill is a huge burden for many in the country and the bureaucrats in charge are taking us for a ride, with those in small towns and rural areas suffering the brunt of it. Now instead of only beating the drum please find a solution to the problem presented on screen. Garima Wahal’s dialogues, too, fall flat most of the time.
Both Shahid and Shraddha render no favors to the film with their one-note performances. To be fair to Shraddha, she again gets a role that offers little scope for her to perform, but Shahid is the focal point of proceedings, yet fails to lift his act beyond the customary accent alteration and a few funny quips. It looks like if Shahid doesn’t get Vishal Bhardwaj to guide him (Haider, Kaminey), he wander like a lost soul through a film. However subpar the direction and script may be, very good actors are known to add something with their own volition. The least they manage is to not be as disappointing as the film they’re in. Alas…Shahid seems content to forgo such aspirations. It’s Divyendu and Yami who actually emerge unscathed on their supporting roles, but their parts are too half-baked for them to really shine.
Speaking of not shining, the technical departments are as underwhelming as the rest of the film, with the cinematography looking photoshopped in places and the editing being the biggest culprit of making the film a bore. The music is decent, though we doing any of the tunes will stick in your head. The other saving grace of the film are a few moments during the courtroom scenes, which offer a modicum of intensity and even some laugh in an otherwise soporific narrative.
Batti Gul Meter Chalu ends up being a confused, bumbling, and ultimately uninspiring take on a pertinent subject, with too few redeeming factors to warrant wading through its daunting runtime.
Movified Rating: 2/5 stars
Images Source: T-Series