Nil Battey Sannata…A must watch film

MUMBAI: The title Nil Battey Sannata is a colloquial phrase from UP that denotes a lost cause or total hopelessness and so may not make much sense to the ordinary reader But as you watch the film unwind, you identify not only with the title but also with the honest intent of the film. The film deals with aspirations, determination and education (of a girl child) against all odds. It is also about equations between a single mother and a teenaged daughter as well as between a domestic help and her employers.

Swara Bhaskar is a widow with great ambitions to properly educate her 15-year-old daughter and see her become a doctor or an engineer or something similar. However, her own hurdle apart from the problem of money is her own daughter Ria who has no inclination towards studies. Her logic is simple: a doctor’s child becomes a doctor and an engineer’s child follows his father’s vocation and she is convinced her future is also slated to become a bai, a domestic servant, like her mother. The girl nurses no great ambitions and knows nothing of her mother’s ambitions for her.

Ria is fully into films and glued to the TV most of the time. Though she manages to get through classes, mathematics is her major problem and Swara, who calls it ‘mess’, knows that maths could be the hurdle in the way of Ria’s good grades. Swara’s moral support comes from one of her employers, a doctor, Ratna Pathak Shah, and her usually quiet husband. Ratna uses her goodwill to get Ria special discount at a coaching class to improve her maths. It is a Catch-22 situation at such classes. They take only bright students because of whom the institutions add to their reputation. Ria has to get at least 50% in preliminaries to get the benefit.

Ratna has a suggestion that Swara, who never got a chance to finish her 10th standard, go back to school and not only finish her high school but also learn and help Ria learn and that too from the same school and class that Ria attends. This is the beginning of a conflict between mother and daughter; as the latter would be too embarrassed having her mother in the same class as her!

Actually, telling more about Nil Battey Sannata would amount to spoiling the pleasure of watching it.

The film’s triumph is in its writing as the script is well woven. The subtly humorous dialogue adds life to the proceedings. The first-time director Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari does a good job generally but for a couple of glitches related to properties on the set. The songs, though in the background, are peppy. The end, justifiably so, moves from wit to the emotional. The actors in the film live up to their roles. Swara, Ria, Ratna and Pankaj Trivedi (this is among his best), all excel as do the kids playing fellow students. The whole feel about the film is natural.

Nil Battey Sannata is a must-watch film, especially with kids. This would be the most deserving film for a tax-free tag nationally. (The film has already been exempted from entertainment tax in Delhi and UP.)

Producers: Anand L Rai, Ajay Rai.

Director: Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari.

Cast: Swara Bhaskar, Ria, Ratna Pathak Shah, Pankaj Trivedi.

Santa Banta Pvt Ltd….Juvenile!

Santa Banta jokes have been a social media favourite for a long time now. It is late in the day, but someone decided to cash in on the brand equity and make a film using these names. But the makers who took ages to strike the idea cannot be expected to be bright. What’s worse, they take all of 112 minutes to prove that. The film starts with a disclaimer in that it praises the loyalty, patriotism and the valour of Sikhs and then proceeds to make them look like buffoons all along.

Boman Irani is Santa and Veer Das is Banta, a pair of bumbling Sikhs, as rustic as they come. In other words, they are plain stupid. Their life is about gulping down bottles of alcohol and making fools of themselves. That is when the Indian intelligence agency RAW needs two of its top spooks to go to Suva, Fiji, to solve the mystery of the kidnapping of the country’s High Commissioner there, Ayub Khan.

The depiction of the intelligence agency is just about as bright as the writers of this film for they don’t know where their star spies, Veeru and Jai, are. The boss, Tinnu Anand, dispatches his subordinate, Vijay Raaz, to Punjab to find them! If that is stupid, so is the whole film.

This film is planned to be a comedy which starts with day-to-day PJs seen on social media as well as Joke of the Day slots in any print publication. But refusing to use those and be ‘original’, the makers let loose both Boman and Veer without a clue, script or content, to be at their funniest.

Santa Banta Pvt Ltd has all the so-called comedians on the roster including the great Johnny Lever who can entertain even without a script; and sadly, he fails here too.

Script, direction, editing, music, performances are tough to find in this film.

To put it mildly, Santa Banta Pvt Ltd is juvenile stuff.

Producer: Sheeba Akashdeep, Viacom 18 Motion Pictures.

Director: Akashdeep Sabir.

Cast: Boman Irani, Neha Dhupia, Lisa Haydon, Veer Das, Johnny Liver, Ram Kapoor, Sanjay Mishra, Vijay Raaz, Vrajesh Hirjee.

Laal Rang….This not entertainment.

There are a lot of new filmmakers wanting to experiment with different themes. Usually, such themes are either the result of experiences from where the makers come or from newspaper reports. Unfortunately, such local subjects don’t succeed in appealing to an all-India audience. Neither the viewers identify with such subjects nor, in most cases, do they care about a regional scandal.

Laal Rang is about a scandal involving pilferage from blood banks and a blood mafia in Karnal, Haryana, with links to the capital, Delhi as well.  Earlier, there have been headlines about organ mafias, so why not blood mafia as well?

Akshay Oberoi, the son of a peon in a government hospital, is aspiring to be a pathology lab technician. He gets admission to a two-year diploma course. On campus, he meets Randeep Hooda, also an applicant but mainly a fixer. He gets the list of the candidates admitted before it is put up on the board by seducing the rather lusty woman administrator. He then cons those whose name is already on the list by guaranteeing them admission. He also tries to con Akshay who does not fall for his ploy because he knows his admission has been confirmed.

This is only the tip of the iceberg. It is only Randeep’s seasonal business, once a year. Randeep actually runs a very well organized blood mafia. His only reason to seek a diploma is to qualify for a job in a government hospital which would make it easy for him to run his blood business by being close to the source.

Randeep has suddenly grown fond of Akshay after their first encounter. Soon, both become friends, or rather more like guru and chela. Randeep takes Akshay into his fold..Seeing Randeep accumulating monies and his RX100 motorbike worth Rs 30,000 has convinced Akshay that Randeep is rolling in money. He asks to be included in the ‘business.’ Akshay is now the most trusted lieutenant and, in Randeep’s company, he graduates to smoking and drinking. Meanwhile, he is also in love with another student, Pia Bajpai, whom he met on the day of admission to the course.

Randeep encourages Akshay in his love affair because he is also in love with someone, Meenakshi Dixit, who loves him but won’t marry him because her parents don’t approve of Randeep. Akshay tries to reunite them but these reunions are temporary. This chapter could be done away with as it adds to the film’s length.

Like in all friendship films, the friends soon turn foes. Akshay’s innocent face and student status comes to his rescue when the police catch up with one of their suppliers. He is offered a bait, either name the leader and go scot-free or end up in jail.

The problem with Laal Rang is that our audience is by now immune to such subjects. Moreover the wise thing would be to not base such narrations on a local level as few people care. The film hangs between a documentary and a human interest story and, for that the duration of about two and half hours is stretching it much too far. While the idea is noble, the script as well as the direction are scratchy. The good thing about the film is performances by all concerned, including Randeep, Akshay, Meenakshi, Pia, Rajneesh Duggal as well as the supporting cast. Also positive are the musical tracks (though it does not have much relevance in such a film) and the dialogue which pack a punch despite being rustic.

Laal Rang may have some merits but when it comes to commercial prospects: none whatsoever.

Producer: Nitika Thakur.

Director: Syed Ahmad Afzal.

Cast: Randeep Hooda, Akshay Oberoi, Pia Bajpai, Meenakshi Dixit, Rajneesh Duggal, Jaihind Kumar, Abhimanue Arun.

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