Batti Gul Meter Chalu has one important ‘character’ and that’s a light bulb that flickers due to electricity problems in the area. That very bulb defines the film as well because it fluctuates from start till finish and is more likely to fuse in Pakistan, because it borrows heavily from Actor In Law, a film close to the hearts of Pakistanis because it was one the finest films to be made in recent years.
The Pakistani film had a memorable soundtrack, mesmerizing performances and above all, a social message which still rings in people’s minds. Sadly, Shahid Kapoor’s latest Bollywood offering has neither of the film’s characteristics and falls flat despite having its heart in the right place.
Shree Narayan Singh’s first directorial flick since Toilet Ek Prem Katha is a letdown, not because it’s a rip-off but because it’s too lengthy, too dull and too classless, unlike his last hit. There seems to be no girl in the town except Nauti (Shraddha Kapoor) for conman/lawyer S.K (Shahid Kapoor) and his childhood friend Tripathi (Divyendu Sharma) in a village that is too bright to be labelled as load-shedding ridden.
In fact, the electricity is usually there all the time except when the director desires. Situated in a small town of Tehri in the Indian city of Uttarakhand, the film doesn’t offer anything to the audience in the first half until one of them meets an accident and that changes the narrative from slow to medium-fast.
Yes, the film talks about a subject that is common in India and Pakistan but while our film tackled the damages to appliances and torture to the consumers for hardly 20 minutes, the nearly three-hour-long Bollywood film makes it into a one and a half hour long battle for no reason. Had the writers watched the whole Actor In Law, they would have realized that judges in courts are serious people, not those asking about scores during proceedings; lawyers can’t comment on the opposing counsel’s dressing or personal lives no matter how beautiful they might look underneath the coat.
It’s sad that such a film comes from the land of Jolly LLB which was one of the few inspirations for Actor In Law and which made people notice Courtroom dramas that were a dying breed at that time. The two ‘Jolly’ films had a judge who didn’t seem serious on the outside but was hard-hitting serious when a case came into his court, that element was missing her, big time.
In the age of Netflix, to come up with a lengthy film where two imaginary characters narrate the story and disrupt the flow, where the soundtrack reminds you of the 90s when Bollywood was producing trash, where the leading lady had no expressions and where the leading man takes an erotic novel out of the Defense Counsel’s purse during court proceedings is as close to nonsense as you would get.
For a movie that takes a strong stand against corruption and tries to make people understand their rights, the ‘fight’ arrives a little too late for the audience who find exiting the theatre more comfortable than enduring the first half.
The most impressive of the film’s entire cast were the two supporting characters played by Divyendu Sharma and Atul Srivastava who play son and father; the scene where Shahid Kapoor’s SK goes to console his friend’s dad is easily the highlight of the movie. Yami Gautam Gulnar Rizvi has less screen time but she looks graceful despite her opposing lawyer’s goofiness.
The subject of inflated bills and faulty meters could have been a winner had action spoken louder than words, had the director been more attentive to the screenplay than the execution and had the local Garhwali lingo not been overused by the cast. The film tried to reach the destination by taking the longer route when it could have reached there through a straight road it skipped, ending in a blackout of sorts.