Produced by: Vineet Jain and Renu Chopra
Directed by: Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari
Written by: Nitesh Tiwari & Shreyas Jain and adapted from “The Ingredients of Love” by Nicholas Barreau
Music: Tanishk-Vayu, Arko, Samira Koppikar & Sameer Uddin
Starring: Rajkummar Rao, Ayushmann Khurrana, Kriti Sanon, Seema Pahwa, Pankaj Tripathi, Rohit Chaudhari, Swati Semwal & others
It’s a tough act to live up to a quasi-masterpiece debut – in this case, “Nil Battey Sannata.” Director Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari has to make something as good or better, definitely a shade bigger and not lose direction (pun intended).
Let me finish with the small negative first: this film lacks the crispness of “Nil…,” which to my recollection (over three watches!) had not a single extraneous frame. At places in the second half of this film, however, there was a feeling that things were a tad too long and maybe editor Chandrashekhar Prajapati was taking it a shade easy.
Let me nitpick a bit more. The voiceover by Javed Akhtar did not hit the right notes. Methinks a versatile actor, anyone from Paresh Rawal, Anupam Kher or even a Nana Patekar, would have fitted the bill better and been more evocative and subtly humorous.
Also, as it is an entertainer, the gender equality message is a shade less intense, vis-à-vis the hard-hitting and incisively delivered progressive message in the earlier film.
The first positive I must mention is that Tiwari (aided by her versatile husband and writer Nitesh “Chillar Party”-“Dangal” Tiwari who also co-wrote her earlier film), meets the challenge head-on. Yes, the film is completely commercial within its slice-of-life aura and has a feel-good script. There is an unusual tweak to the almost-marrying-the-wrong-man classic climax of such love triangles. But the freshness and charm of this film lie in the characters, the ethos and the treatment.
Bitti (Kriti Sanon) is the darling of her father (Pankaj Tripathi, whose performance can be best described by the clichéd term “mind-blowing”!) and both smoke and drink. He considers her as good as a son, whereas, in stark contrast, her concerned mother (Seema Pahwa) despairs of her as she has been rejected by (or has turned down) umpteen suitors, which includes two broken engagements!
The reason is simple: Bitti will not suffer male chauvinism and regressive attitudes gladly. She hates, in particular, the question, “Are you a virgin?” Upset that her mother does not like her stand and the resultant single status, she decides to run away from home. As a train at the station will take the time to come, Bitti buys a book called “Bareilly Ki Barfi” at the bookstall and is floored by it!
The reason again is simple: the girl in the book is just like her in terms of quirks and habits, and Bitti now wants to search for the author. The author happens to be Chirag Dubey (Ayushmann Khurrana), owner of a printing press, for whom this novel is a catharsis on his lost love.
The book has flopped miserably, but there is a secret: he has persuaded his meek friend Pritam Vidrohi (Rajkummar Rao) to lend his name to it (complete with photograph) as an author, and the repercussions to the book have caused this shy and quite uneducated man to run away to Lucknow!
When Chirag meets Bitti, they strike an instant rapport that soon translates into love from his side. Bitti (with her romantic notions) wants to be introduced to his friend and customer Pritam, and the shrewd Chirag arranges a meeting with a condition presented to the shy man that he should meet Bitti once, make her despise him, and go away. But then, the tables are turned. Pritam starts liking Bitti, and her parents too prefer him to Chirag!
Coming to think of it, the film is as sweet as its title (incidentally Bitti’s father runs a ‘mithai ki dukaan’ or sweetmeat shop) and is nothing less than a fairytale, with one crucial difference: a fairytale usually has a villain. In this film, despite the hero being aggressive, selfish and manipulative, and Pritam turning from noble and shy to defiant and roguish, we see a story with characters who are nice, normal and – dare I say sweet? – people.
Technically, the film is alright for its needs, but the slightly darkish camera work could have been avoided – a brighter tone might have reduced realism a shade but made things more enjoyable. The background music (Sameer Uddin) is too loud or intrusive in parts, and the music average, with two noteworthy songs, “Sweety Tera Drama” and “Kamariya Twist.”
Tiwari is in complete command as a director, and that is reflected in the actors’ performances. Khurrana pulls off the manipulative sections and is his usual self otherwise. Sanon is very good. The scene-stealer in the romantic entanglement is obviously Rao – it is amazing how this man so easily makes all his roles his cups of totally varied tea. In a word again, he is astounding. Pahwa, Swati Semwal, and Choudhary as Munna, Chirag’s friend, are excellent, as is the unknown actress who plays Pritam’s mother.
Watch this film for a heartwarming experience in the movie-hall. You will not wean off the lovable ‘Bareillyians’ easily. You might even yearn for a second watch.