A Meritorious Effort
Film: Nil Battey Sannata, Cast: Swara Bhaskar, Pankal Tripathi, Riya Shukla, Directed by: Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari, Duration: 1 hr 40 mins, Rating: * * * *
“Engineer ka beta engineer, doctor ka beta doctor aur bai ki beti bai banegi,” says the teenage girl in the film – she has no doubts whatsoever about what the future holds for her. Her mother meanwhile who is a domestic help among other odd jobs that she does, but, has great hopes from the girl. She even goes and knocks at the door of the district collector just to find out which college one has to go to, to become a collector.
That’s Nil Battey Sannata for you – a heartwarming and charming film with a big heart – very big heart. Directed by debutant Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari, it has a running time of barely 100 minutes and doesn’t stray from the core issue at hand. Moreover, it manages to bring a mega lump in your throat, more than once.
Set in Agra, Chanda (Swara Bhaskar) lives in a one-room house with her teenage daughter Apeksha (Riya Shukla) who is in the lower rung as far as her performance in school is concerned. The mother has only one dream, to educate her daughter so that she has a good life ahead. She works at a shoe factory and also as a domestic help at a doctor’s house. The lady doctor (Ratna Pathak Shah) encourages her in all her endeavours and lends a helping hand whenever she can.
The girl meanwhile is enthusiastic about everything but studies, especially Math. It leads to the mother joining school as well and they study in the same class under the watchful eye of the principal (Pankaj Tripathi, extraordinary).
While highlighting the importance of education without being too preachy, Nil Battey Sannata also has many bittersweet moments. The screenplay is taut and is mixed with some lightweight scenes like the principal’s character. The scene where the lady doctor and Chanda go to meet him is an absolute hoot, thanks to the brilliance of Pankaj Tripathi.
The other characters are also well etched, like the other school mates, particularly the boy who loves Math. There is also a message of positivity in the film – even when all appears to be lost Chanda doesn’t give up. The scenes are well crafted and thanks to the sharp editing by Shekhar Prajapati, the film also has the lets-get-on-with-it attitude that helps considerably. There’s a scene where the teacher is taking attendance in school and it quickly cuts to Chanda saying “Ji sir” at her work place. As Holden Caulfield would say, that scene killed me.
The dialogues and the setting are apt – the only grouse was the last line uttered in the film, which appeared to be demeaning to the profession. Given the sensibility shown otherwise, it looked out of place. But that is a minor complaint.
The impact is elevated by the fine ensemble cast. Ratna Pathak Shah is pitch-perfect and Pankaj Tripathi’s superlative performance has already been highlighted. Riya Shukla as the teenager makes an impact and Swara Bhaskar’s performance also deserves applause.
The title Nil Battey Sannata refers to a slang which means zero or an outcome that is zilch. Fortunately, the film is so much more than that.
In the Red
Film: Laal Rang, Cast: Randeep Hooda, Akshay Oberoi, Pia Bajpai, Directed by: Syed Ahmed Afzal, Duration: 2hr 30 mins, Rating: * *
Laal Rang is inspired by true incidents that took place in Haryana where blood from the blood banks was sold in a corrupt manner. While the details of the incident are chilling, the screenplay of Laal Rang is all over the place, diluting the whole essence.
For a story like that, the execution has to be within certain parameters. Style cannot take over substance but sadly that is what happens. Set in Karnal, Shankar (Randeep Hooda) runs a racket of pilfering blood from the local blood bank. His partner is crime is Rajesh (Akshay Oberoi) who is a lab assistant but for him, Shankar is like a messiah. Rajesh is lured by the money and they dig their heels in deep. There is a strong male bonding, so much so that we even see them in slow motion on a bike when they become good friends. That scene was out of place and instead of becoming a gritty film that tells a grim story, Laal Rang is more about Shankar’s macho-ness.
The romance between Rajesh and Poonam (Pia Bajpai) doesn’t add any value to the story. A cop (Rajnesh Duggal) is hot on the chase trying to unearth the racket. In one scene, (shot in slow motion again) he along with a bunch of cops chases an offender who has a bag full of blood pouches. To escape, (a) will you drop the bag and run or (b) take the pouches out one by one while running, turn around, and hurl them at the cops. The director opts for (b) because it is more stylish but not realist.
But full marks to the director Syed Afzal for getting the milieu absolutely spot-on. The lingo and the settings look credible and on the acting front Randeep Hooda steals the show as the cool dude and Akshay Oberoi manages to hold fort, on his own. If only the screenplay was compact and more supportive, it could have been a bloody good film.
Film: The Huntsman: Winter’s War, Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Jessica Chastain, Emily Blunt, Charlize Theron, Directed by: Cedric Nicolas-Troyan, Duration: 1 hr 53 mins, Rating: * *
The ladies in the film, namely, Charlize Theron, Emily Blunt and Jessica Chastain can single handedly hold a film on their own. But the fact that all of them together cannot help The Huntsman: Winter’s War from sinking, says everything there is to say.
The predecessor Snow White and The Huntsman wasn’t so bad – there was a twist in the tale which made the fairy story dark and gave something to talk about. Winter’s War is on auto pilot – perhaps the film makers got carried away with the star cast and didn’t quite give them enough material to make the cut.
Snow white has been completely relegated in this film; the mirror at least has some role to play.
Right at the start we meet the sisters Ravenna (Theron) and Freya (Emily Blunt), the former being quite a tyrant. When the younger Freya falls in love and carries a baby of a noble guy who is engaged to someone else. All hell breaks loose and Ravenna cuts short Freya’s motherhood and the latter turns into a love and emotion hating queen who builds her own army. She also has powers to freeze anything and is a virtual ice factory; for a moment I did confuse it with the plot of Frozen.
She kidnaps children from around and they are called Huntsmen. Although there are quite a few women as well, yet they are all called Huntsmen. They don’t do much hunting either. Two of these Huntspeople Sara (Jessica Chastain) and Eric (Chris Hemsworth) fall in love which enrages Freya. She separates them with an ice wall and Eric is left to fend for himself. To add some comic element, dwarves are introduced, but that only bogs down the proceedings further.
There isn’t much coherence in the story which remains dull from start to finish. But it appears that they are not done with it yet, there may be more dreadful stuff in store.