Had it been the nineties, this film would have set the box office on fire. Misogynistic jokes, best friends who thump chests screaming ‘bust friend’, love triangles among childhood friends, MastRam novels (Dear millennials, MastRam was the nineties kids version of Playboy!), melodramatic courtroom scenes – This film has every ingredient of a masala film, made in the nineties. And that’s the problem with this film. The times have changed and so have changed the audience sensibilities (Although ‘Race3’ makes that highly debatable!). ‘Batti Gul Meter Chalu’ banks on the above-mentioned plot points and hopes to sail through, sending out a social message. Unfortunately, lazy storytelling becomes a hurdle of this inane film, whose runtime of two hours and forty-five minutes, feels like an eternity.

The movie begins with two men gossiping on a bus. One is called ‘Vikas’ (Development) and the other is called ‘Kalyan’ (Welfare). The content of their discussion is the friendship of Sundar Mohan Tripathi, Susheel Kumar Panth and Lalita Nautiyal. Tripathi is an honest businessman, SK is a shrewd lawyer and Nauti is an aspiring fashion designer. They happily thrive in the beautiful town of Tehri. Daraar in the Dosti occurs when Nauti chooses Tripathi over SK. Angered by this development, SK stops all communication with his friends. Here the second plot of the film begins. Harassed due to the high electricity bill generated for his factory, Tripathi commits suicide or so it seems. Driven by his friend’s death, a repentant SK decides to file a case in the court of law, against the company that supplies electricity. Hereafter the film loses shit. After a chain of the mockery of events, eventually it’s the truth that prevails and with it, the film ends. Oh, and by the way, Vikas and Kalyan are left hanging from a cliff. Why? Perhaps, only Narayan Knows!

Let me be honest. The film has its moments. I, being a nineties kid, did go ROFL on some scenes, thanks to my weird sense of humour. But that doesn’t stop the film from being a dud. The characters speak in Kumaoni dialect which they rather tragically reduce to the overuse of the words ‘Bal’ and ‘Thehera’. And by Jove, the characters are loud! Director Shree Narayan Singh, who had directed ‘Toilet – Ek Prem Katha’ tries hard to spread another social message but fails, thanks to his undercooked subject material. The film takes an eternity to set the stage for the Public vs Corporate debate. But just when it seems we’re set for a fiery showdown, it becomes a caricature where SK and the rival lawyer have some strange arguments over ladies sandals and cheap pulp fiction. Even stranger are the various plot points which remain unexplained. A life-altering suspense is revealed unnecessarily after the interval, which could have made the difference, had it been disclosed at the end. It feels as if during the shooting, the director lost the script and then rewrote it from memory, thus forgetting some of the basic plot points.

Shahid Kapoor is a good actor, who is capable of showing glimpses of greatness when helmed by a great director. Unfortunately, Shree Narayan Singh is not Vishal Bhardwaj. So Shahid’s earnest performance fails to grab attention. Divyendu Sharma, also a good actor, gets reduced to the perennial friend, who gets to die. Shraddha Kapoor is one dimensional. Actors like Fareeda Jalal, Sudhir Pandey, Supriya Pilgaonkar are restricted to itsy bitsy characters, which’s a shame. Only Atul Srivastava shines as Tripathi’s father. Even Yami Gautam, in a guest appearance as the public prosecutor, looks lost amidst the crowd. Sushmita Mukherjee as the Judge presiding over the case is there for comic relief. Songs are good and just like the nineties, are there for playing to the gallery only.

So in totality, Batti toh Batti, Picture bhi Gul Thehera Bal !

The Cinemawala Rating: 2/5

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