Ever since I heard of it, I have wanted to see this film, which has been making waves in film festivals across the world. First, because the title “Nil Battey Sannata” didn’t make any sense to me. What language was this? Well, now that I have seen the movie, I know that it is a Hindi colloquial saying meaning “zero divided by zero” which in other words means “someone who is absolutely good for nothing”.
Now that this confusion is sorted, let me tell you about this movie. Nil Battey Sannata is based on a story written by Nitesh Tiwari (of ‘Dangal’ fame). The film is directed by his wife, debutante director, Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari.
What happens when you learn that your child has stopped dreaming for a better future? The film is about a high-school dropout single mother, Chanda (Swara Bhaskar) who works as a maid to bring up her daughter Appu (Riya Shukla). Appu is in tenth grade but is simply not interested in her studies, especially in maths which seems like a big demon to her. Her school mates all belong to the same lower economic strata of society, and their biggest dreams in life are either to end up as taxi drivers or peons. While Chanda strives hard to make a living and to give her daughter a secure future, she finds that coaching classes are beyond her reach- unless her daughter makes an effort at least to secure passing marks in maths. Appu on the other hand, seems to have resigned to her fate, completely aware of the ground reality. Her logic is: “When an engineer’s child becomes an engineer, and a doctor’s child becomes a doctor, I know that as a bai’s daughter, I will have to work as a bai! So why work hard when my fate is decided.”
Swara is coerced by the doctor (Ratna Pathak Shah) in whose house she works, to join tenth grade in the same school that Appu does, as a challenge to her daughter. Appu turns more defiant and feels humiliated that her mother is now in her class. While no one in school except the principal (Pankaj Tripathi) knows that Chanda is Appu’s mother, what follows is a very interesting series of incidents. Does Chanda succeed in making her daughter learn to dream bigger? Or does she give up mid-way when her stubborn daughter refuses to see reason?
This movie has Swara Bhaskar at her best- displaying all shades of a single mother’s turmoil: anger, frustration, compassion, love and rebellion. Riya Shukla as her daughter is equally good. Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari’s directorial debut weaves magic while never shifting from the ground reality. The songs are situational and fun.
Watch it! Not on a pirated platform, but right on Youtube by spending twenty five rupees. Completely worth it. The link is right here: