The title says it all in TOILET: EK PREM KATHA fame helmer Shree Narayan Singh’s BATTI GUL METER CHALU. It’s beyond doubt now that filmmaker Shree Narayan Singh’s rendezvous with cinema will be a probing indictment of issues that challenge the growth and reach of India as a nation.
After a satirical attack on the burning issue of open defecation in the award winning Akshay Kumar starrer TOILET: EK PREM KATHA, Shree Narayan Singh’s BATTI GUL METER CHALU takes on the privatization of the power/electricity supply in small towns/ rural India in a satirical attack on the aghast of the need, the inhumanity of greed and the failure of the system in controlling the damage in a manner that first entertains, then enrages and finally makes you think.
The story concept of Vipul K. Rawal gets adapted for screen by Siddharth Singh and Garima Wahal who also pen the dialogues. Set in the Hindi heartland of the picturesque Uttarakhand made famous in the west by none other than The Beatles during the late 60’s, BATTI GUL METER CHALU is a story of S.K (Shahid Kapoor), Nauti (Shraddha Kapoor), and Tripathi (Divyendu Sharma). These childhood buddies are made for each other. S.K is a fraud lawyer who makes money from out of court settlements. Nauti is a budding fashion designer who thinks she can out class the Manish Malhotra’s and Rohit Bal’s of Bollywood. Tripathi on the other hand is the one who is more focused and rooted. After we feel the camaraderie between the three which includes a competition on who wins the heart of Nauti in a week, slowly and gradually, thing start taking serious turns when Tripathi manages to open a printing press by taking loan under the small scale industry scheme. Things are looking rosy in Tripathi’s household, his father played by Atul Srivastava is feeling contented, the retired aam aadmi is happy that his son has got the opportunity to chase his dreams. But ill faith has another story to say, Tripathi’s printing press unit – U.K. gets charged with exuberantly inflated bills of lakhs per month which leads to tension and repeated visit to the local electricity board. The board advises to put a meter reader in order to avoid further miscalculations, but of no avail. The bill gets doubled and it gets escalated up to 54 Lakhs in coming months. With no rescue, hope and shocking refusal of his dear friend S.K. to land a helping hand ( disclosing the reason will act as a spoiler), Tripathi is forced to take a drastic step that shakes the state, the electricity department, the people in general and SPTL – the private company that supplies electricity to the area and is at fault.
Similar to TOILET: EK PREM KATHA director Shree Narayan Singh takes the sensitive and the issue that concerns to the aam aadmi in a mainstream format and avoids being stark and profoundly serious to the matter. The issue is dealt in a manner that entertains and enthralls, so liberties of a main stream commercial are exploited, manipulated, things turn melodramatic to the core.
No matter how colorful, glittery and hard core mainstream format the movie adapts, it does mange to throw a harsh light on the length and breadth of the issue, in reality, the issue of inflated bills is not restricted to regions like Uttarakhand alone, you can find that aghast in other cities as well. The greed of private company and the inability of the system work as partners in crime and we see many regions facing power cuts every now and then. The writers make the actors speak in the local dialect that gives authenticity to the woes. Though there are times when you have to pay extra attention to get it right, the helplessness of aam aadmi who is at the mercy of this giants of corruption and privatization asks pertinent question on where it will stop.
Siddharth Singh and Garima Wahal dialogues hit the right notes with simple lines that make a huge impact such as sab kuch bech ke bill chukka deinge, par kab tak , mein ek am aadmi hu, mein shanti chahata hu, kranti nahi, mein sarkar ki har cheech manta hu.
Undeniably TOILET: EK PREM KATHA was a revolutionary idea by Shree Narayan Singh and without any iota of doubt, BATTI GUL METER CHALU is more ambitious as it aims at wider audience as it concerns their pockets, budgets. There is an undercurrent of satire throughout as it begins with a comment on Vikas and Anand (growth and happiness). The movie is exceptionally performed by the main characters who power the cause of the film.
Shahid Kapoor as S.K. provides the ‘energy’ the vibe and the poise for the mean lawyer who uses his degree to extract money and not serve the law. He is purposely over the top and selfish in the first half then the transformation in the second half keeps the ball rolling. The final scene in the courtroom is loud and clear that Shahid Kapoor is terrific as S.K. S.K. comes out with some uncomfortable facts which can make you question the rise and development of our nation.
Shraddha Kapoor gets a well etched role and she excels. Women in Shree Narayan Singh’s movies are strong individuals and here also Shraddha Kapoor excels as a budding fashion designer who has a heart and a mind at the right place.
Divyendu Sharma is a revelation, he as Tripathi is the son that every father wants, every wife's dream, the ideal common man who follows rules, goes by the book, hardly complaints, wants to live a peaceful life and what he gets from the world - betrayal, conspiracy and insult. Tripathi pays the price that a common man pays at various places. Divyendu Sharma brings controlled nuances to his act and he is one of the driving force, if Shahid Kapoor is the meter, Divyendu Sharma is the batti.
Yami Gautam is fantastic and effortless. Samir Soni is competent. Sudhir Pandey is wonderful as always. Farida Jalal is pleasant. Supriya Pilgaonkar leaves her mark. Atul Srivastava is superb. Sharib Hashmi is brilliant in a cameo. Sushmita Mukherjee is good as the judge.
Technically fine, Cinematography by Anshuman Mahaley captures the eye popping beauty of Uttarakhand to a jaw dropping effect. Shree Narayan Singh’s editing is as per the requirement. Music by Anu Malik and Rochak Kohli is just passable, Tamba and Dekhte, Dekhte come with the momentum and do no harm.
On the flipside, Shree Narayan Singh in his ambition and over enthusiasms gets carried away and resorts to some buffoonery in the court room episodes, there was no need to compete with JOLLY LLB, and the humour doesn’t go well. Though Shree Narayan Singh’s BATTI GUL METER CHALU manages to steer the outrage about the unjustified billing by private companies be it electricity or your mobile phones, the core issue over here could have incited a more bigger and wider outrage if the probable nexus between the suppliers of inverters with the private power company and the system plus the stealing of power was also taken into account diligently. The movie may sound preachy and anti establishment to some.
In spite of its shares of flaws, over enthusiasm and fascination to be overly filmy, Shree Narayan Singh’s BATTI GUL METER CHALU, hits the hot button of the unholy and greedy nexus between the system and private players in the power/electricity sector that makes the aam aadmi’go through sufferings and pain which questions the growth and rise of our nation. After 71 years of its glorious independence, why the shine of light is still doomed in some areas, what’s the motive behind such privatizations and why some people choose to be in denial. We go with four stars (an extra for the concept and ‘power’ packed performances)