Nil Battey Sannata Movie Review – A disarmingly simple and heart-warming film

Bollywood Movie Nil Battey Sannata Review

Cast: Swara Bhaskar, Riya Shukla, Pankaj Tripathy, Ratna Pathak Shah
Director: Ashwini Iyer Tiwari
Rating: 3.5 

Nil Battey Sannata Story

Nil Battey Sannat title meaning  is a fallen-into-disuse Hindi phrase. Nil means zero. Bata/ Battey is a word for division. And `sannata’ is, of course, silence. Or ‘shoonya’. Zero divided by zero is equal to Zero.

The film mines the life of Chanda (Swara Bhaskar), a single mother who does menial jobs all day just in order to give her teenaged daughter Apeksha (Riya Shukla) the education that might help her break the shackles of poverty and privation.

Chanda’s relationship with her daughter Apeksha is rather choppy because the Apeksha is outright skeptical of her mother’s grand plans for her.

Apeksha’s question to her mother is pointed and repeated: “Do you even have the means to educate me beyond high school?”

In this battle of attrition between a strong-willed mother and an adamant daughter, math serves as an apt metaphor for the challenges that the duo is up against as they struggle to weave their way out of their misery.

One of Chanda’s employers, a humane doctor (Ratna Pathak Shah) who sees Chanda as a human being, not just a work machine, helps create a situation in which mother and daughter end up getting some learning, both in a school setting and at home, both separately and together.

‘Nil Battey Sannata’ review: Swara Bhaskar shows performance-heavy films can also be fun

 

Through well-etched scenes (written by Iyer Tiwari, Nitesh Tiwari, Neeraj Singh and Pranjal Choudhary) and solid characters the film delivers important lessons about dreams, motivation, friendship, parenting and sacrifice, including the view that one should befriend math rather than fight it.

Although hard pressed at times to disguise the sophistication inherent in her body language, Swara Bhaskar presents a striking portrait of tenacity.

She gives all that she has to the character of the weather-beaten but hard-working woman who will stop at nothing in the pursuit of her dreams.

As a precocious teenager, Ria Shukla is a fine sparring partner. Pankaj Tripathi is the scene-stealer as the zealous school principal and Math teacher. He has a skip in his step and playfulness in his sternness, which are a delight to watch.

Ratna Pathak Shah, playing Chanda’s guide and well-wisher, delivers an effortlessly effective performance.

Sanjay Suri steps in to a special appearance as the local Collector whose considerate nature and beacon-light car impress Chanda so much that she stalks him for days just to find out how Apu can get a similar post.

Using locations, sets, costumes, language and setting (Agra), Iyer Tiwari creates an authentic world with a universal emotional core. However, at the close, the narrative trips over its own benevolence. The relationship between Bhaskar and Pathak Shah is a touch overdone and, while it managed to skip melodrama and manipulation throughout, the end succumbs to sermonizing (and a kitschy song called ‘Maa’) which dilutes the impact of an otherwise assured debut delivered with a lightness of touch and a positive message.

Final Verdict

‘Nil Battey Sannata’ has a strong message about how education can change your life. It does underline the message, but stays just short of being preachy or message-y. It is easy to recommend, a light-hearted, easy on the eyes and mind, and full of heart.

 

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