Nil Battey Sannata is a rare film, the kind that will bring tears to your eyes but leave a smile on your face. It is gratifying to watch something unpretentious in times when masala films are stooping to entertain. Director Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari makes you buy into Chanda's innocent world, where happiness is found over relishing a plate of Chow Mein while watching a horror film.
Swara Bhaskar, Ria Shukla and Pankaj Tripathi enthrall with their riveting performances. Though the tempo drops considerably in the second half, Ashwiny ensures that the film never loses its charm. It does get preachy and you find yourself shifting in your seats a lot towards the final scene, but the movie wins you over with its innocence and simplicity.
The title 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? Yep. Zero.
‘Matric- fail’ Chanda Sahay (Swara Bhaskar), of course, calls it `jeero’. Because the ‘z’ is a sound you can expect, more or less, from those who went to schools where the Queen’s English is taught from the get go. What drives the film’s characters to use this flavourful, salty phrase is Chanda’s daughter Apeksha (Riya Shukla), or Apu, and her sullen reluctance to learn.
‘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. And leaves you with a warm glow.
A disarmingly simple and heart-warming film that articulates its message without making a song and dance about it, Nil Battey Sannata is a fine achievement. It shines a light on a segment of society where life is a daily grind and where the smallest dreams face the most daunting obstacles.
Nil Battey Sannata is easy to recommend. It is light-hearted, easy on the eyes and mind, and full of heart. This film says a great deal about a girl-child's struggles, a mother's hopes and the ways of the education system. But, in the end, Nil Battey Sannata is also a good old story about life and its vicissitudes.