‘Nil Battey Sannata’ is a phrase commonly used in Uttar Pradesh to signify ‘good-for-nothing’ or ‘useless’. Debutante director Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari chooses this quirky but catchy title for her recently released film which is set in the by-lanes of Agra, UP, and traces the heart-warming journey of a mother-daughter duo. The film has several motifs of life intricately woven into the narrative like the power of the ‘never-say-die’ spirit in a human being to overcome obstacles, the travails of a lower-middle class mother to accomplish her goal, the psychology and attitude of a 15-year old girl under the depicted circumstances and the changing moods of the mother-daughter bond during the course of the film.
The mother played by actress Swara Bhaskar is the central character in the film and works as a maid in a doctor’s house (Ratna Pathak Shah plays the doctor) and the two of them share a very warm relationship. Swara discusses her problems, her dreams, her fears as well as her apprehensions with her mistress who in turn not only lends her a patient ear but also comes up with ideas to solve her dilemmas. Swara’s biggest worry is her daughter who has just entered the tenth standard and has no interest in studies. Her phobia for Mathematics seems incurable and results in her failing the subject with remarkable regularity.
In a country like ours which gives so much importance to the tenth standard Board Exams, this final year of school becomes a do-or-die year for many children, especially the ones belonging to the lower strata of our society and the marks they secure in these exams can actually make or break their careers.
The film is a beautiful lesson in hope and positivity and reiterates the fact that irrespective of age, gender or status, we can dare to dream and it is up to us to follow that dream with passion and dedication and write our own destiny.
The setting of the film as well as all the characters, the dialogues and the lingo used are very natural and the performances are top-notch. Swara Bhaskar who just three years back played the troubled daughter in the film ‘Listen Amaya…’ is simply brilliant as the troubled mother in this film. In an interview she had mentioned that to prepare for the character, she went and stayed with the maids in Agra and spent time with them observing their body language, their lingo and picked up those little nuances which have indeed helped her come up with a memorable performance.
Riya Shukla as the daughter is a complete natural and conveys the angst and joys of the adolescent girls of that age with amazing understanding and depth and is a treat to watch. Ratna Pathak fits into any character so beautifully. Just last month she had come up with a superb performance in ‘Kapoor and Sons’ and in this film also she manages to leave her mark in a short but sweet role. Pankaj Tripathi as the humorous principal-cum-maths teacher of the school is superb. It is difficult to imagine this actor who has played such villainous roles in films like ‘Gangs of Wasseypur’, ‘Manjhi-The Mountain Man’, etc., in such a delightful role. His scenes in the movie have a lot of humour.
Once in a while our industry comes up with charming ‘feel-good’ films (‘Iqbal’ and ‘Dum Lagake Haisha’ are two recent examples) which may seem simple in terms of budget and star-cast but leave a great impression with their uplifting narrative, natural performances and powerful story-telling. ‘Nil Battey Sannata’ is definitely one of them and promises to bring a smile on your face and a satisfaction in your heart when you leave the cinema hall.
Posting a link to the trailer of this lovely film…hope this makes you all want to see the film…