Eros International, Colour Yellow Productions and Jar Pictures’ Nil Battey Sannata is the story of a mother and daughter. Chanda Sahay (Swara Bhaskar) is a single mother who works as a maid and does other odd jobs so that she can earn enough money to educate her daughter, Apeksha (Riya Shukla). But Apeksha, who is studying in Std. X, is not interested in studies as she is convinced that sooner or later, she too would end up as a maid servant. Mathematics is her weakest subject.

Chanda is devastated when she learns that Apeksha is not serious about her studies, only because she feels that even after studying, she would have to work as a maid servant like her mother. Chanda, herself a Std. X dropout, wants Apeksha to study beyond Std. X. She can’t afford coaching classes for Apeksha in Mathematics. That is when her employer, a lady-doctor (Ratna Pathak Shah), advises her to get admitted in Apeksha’s school and in the same class so that she would be able to understand what are Apeksha’s weak points in Mathematics and she could, therefore, help her with the subject. Chanda gets admission in her daughter’s class.

But rather than Apeksha taking this in the right spirit, she throws a fit as she is embarrassed that her mother sits in the same class as her. Understanding her embarrassment, Chan­da makes sure that nobody in the class gets to know that she is Apeksha’s mother. While Chanda, who also finds Mathematics very difficult, seeks help from the brightest Maths student in class, Apeksha sulks and continues to underperform. One day, in a fit of fury, Apeksha asks her mother to stop embarrassing her any further. Chanda promises to do so if Apeksha would outdo her (Chanda) in the next Mathe- matics examination. Now, Apeksha also begins to seek guidance from the same bright student as she wants to outshine her mother. In fact, Apeksha actually fares well in the Mathematics examination, much to the joy of her mother who now wants her to become a Collector.

However, Apeksha doesn’t want to study any further after Std. X. Seeing the defiance in Apeksha, Chanda refuses to quit school. This agitates Apeksha even more and she now starts viewing her mother with suspicion. What happens thereafter? Does Apeksha reconcile with her mother? Does Apeksha fulfil the dream her mother has seen for her? Does Apeksha become a Collector?

Nitesh Tiwari has written a film which has noble intentions. The subject about women’s education is heart-warming and well-meaning. But alas! The drama looks forced and appears to be tailor-made to reach the end which seems to have been the starting point in his mind. In other words, it appears to the viewer that the story and screenplay writers knew how they wanted to end the film and, therefore, went about constructing a story and screenplay by moving backwards. The screenplay, penned by Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari, Nitesh Tiwari, Neeraj Singh and Pranjal Choudhary, is one of convenience. It seems strange that Chanda’s employer, the lady-doctor, should so easily suggest that Chanda take admission in Apeksha’s school and class to solve the problem of Apeksha being weak in Mathematics. And this is the employer’s very first suggestion! Now, things such as these are not so common that someone should recommend a middle-aged lady to get re-admitted in school in the same class as her daughter, as the first option. Not just this! The lady-doctor asks Chanda to seek admission so that she would be able to understand her daughter’s problems and hence help her in Mathematics. But none of these two things happen. Chanda is not shown to understand any better than she already knew what Apeksha’s problems were. Also and because of the above, Chanda is never shown to be solving Apeksha’s Mathematics difficulties. In effect, therefore, the foundation for Chanda’s admission is laid with a lot of fanfare but nothing happens in that direction. So, the audience wonders what happened to Chanda’s reasons for joining school over again. The drama takes a different turn altogether. And, ultimately, when the realisation does dawn upon Apeksha about the fact that her mother was not wrong in asking her to study hard so that she did not need to become a maid servant, the viewer feels that the realisation could have happened even if Chanda had not gone to school over again. That is to say, the novel part of the story also becomes the not-so-useful part, if one may take the liberty of using the term, because the end result could as well have been achieved without that novel part. That is to say, the same realisation could have dawned upon Apeksha even without Chanda going to school. Therefore, the film becomes more of a journey of a mother and daughter in which a very unusual twist raises hopes of the journey becoming unique due to that twist, but that doesn’t quite happen.

This is not to say that there are no plus points. The light scenes in the drama are very enjoyable. They evoke laughter or at least a smile at several places. But the point is not that. What is unfortunate is that the crux of the story does not elicit the emotions while the lighter side of the film entertains.

Dialogues, written by Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari, Nitesh Tiwari, Neeraj Singh and Pranjal Choudhary, are lovely and very real. A lot of the dialogues add a great deal to the humour in the film.

Swara Bhaskar does a fine job as Chanda Sahay. She goes through her role very effectively, giving her cent per cent to the character of a distressed mother who can do anything to see her daughter well-placed in life. Riya Shukla is splendid. She is first-rate as Apeksha and acts with such ease that it would seem, she were born to play this role. Her dialogue delivery is wonderful. Ratna Pathak Shah has, in a way, been wasted as she does not have a very significant role. She appears a bit too frivolous and vain to be a doctor. Pankaj Tripathi plays the school principal very ably. He adds a good touch of comedy to his character, using his body language with élan. Sanjay Suri shines in a special appearance and adds the right dignity to the role of the Collector. Aditi Tailang makes her presence felt in a brief role as the grown-up Apeksha. Neha Prajapati leaves a mark as Sweety. Prashant Tiwari is nice as Pintu. Vishal Nath leaves a mark in the role of Amar. Jugal Kishore has his moments as Prof. Gupta. Shyam Sundar (as husband of the lady-doctor), Avi­nash Shukla (as the Collector’s guard) and the others lend adequate sup­ port.

Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari’s direction is good and sensitive but her narration is unable to take care of the deficiencies in the script. Music (Rohan-Vinayak) is fair but there is not a single song which stands out as a hit number. Lyrics (Nitesh Tiwari, Shreyas Jain and Manoj Yadav) are appropriate and go well with the mood of the film. Background music (Naren Chandavarkar and Benedict Taylor) is quite effective. Gavemic U. Ary’s camerawork is fairly good. Laxmi Keluskar’s production designing is realistic. Chandrashekhar Prajapati’s editing is reasonably sharp.

On the whole, Nil Battey Sannata misses the bus in conveying the message effectively enough. It has a fine one-line story but the journey is not convincing enough. It will, therefore, not be able to score at the ticket-windows.

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