What in the world does the title mean? Swara Bhaskar as
Chanda the maid or bai, has to explain to mistress Ratna Pathak Shah what Nil Battey Sannata means for the
audience to understand that it stands for a good-for-nothing backbencher.
Single parent Chanda is a bai with great aspirations
for her daughter Apeksha or Appu. But the carefree schoolgirl and her friends aim
for little more than a peon’s job or a chauffeur’s uniform. As Appu reiterates,
like a doctor’s kid becomes a doctor, a bai’s daughter will only be a bai. So
why bother with studies?
From Chanda’s reactions, you don’t need to be told in
so many words that she herself was once bright enough to have wanted a better
life until circumstances truncated her studies, leaving her a ninth standard
pass. And she knows that Appu has it in her to go very far in life but couldn’t
be bothered even aspiring for it.
Ratna Pathak talks Chanda into going back to school
and completing her tenth standard. Principal Shrivastav is made to walk the
talk when Ratna brings Chanda to school and demands that he puts into practice
his daily mantra of ‘Jab jaago tab
savera’. Director Ashwiny Iyer borrows the morning assembly scene from
Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s Guddi with
Appu rushing in late and Principal Shrivastav silently summoning her for
punishment while the prayer goes on. Ashwiny also chooses to keep Shrivastav as
a caricature with substance making the scene where Chanda seeks admission an
It’s daughter Appu who’s obnoxious enough to rate a
tight slap which she doesn’t get. To goad Appu into bettering her scores, Chanda
the super mom does odd jobs and attends school and fetches better marks than her
daughter. She even dogs a kindly disposed District Collector to learn what it
takes to get a job like his.
All this doesn’t inspire Appu, it irks her. Until a
moment of truth makes Appu do a volte face and the mother-daughter moments begin
to work. The last line is the really aspirational one when a grownup Appu tells
the Selection Board that she wanted to be a Collector because…she didn’t want
to be a bai.
Swara Bhaskar carries the film as Chanda. Ratna Pathak
is routinely good as her mistress. All the kids are well handled, Pankaj
Tripathi as the Principal is efficiently comic and Sanjay Suri is at home as
the suave Collector.
The husband and wife team of Nitesh Tiwari as
storywriter and Ashwiny Iyer as director giftwrap a story of hope with positive
characters and light comic touches while retaining the inherent seriousness of
not perfect cinema or a great screenplay but for its attempt to sell hope with
a bit of wit and without getting melodramatic, the curiously titled Nil Battey Sannata gets a 3* rating.
Reviewed bySenior Journalist & Author
Bharathi S Pradhan