Nil battey sannata- Ashdoc’s movie review

In a small town in north India, a single mother (Swara Bhaskar) raises a daughter all alone. The daughter (Ria Shukla ) is a normal kid, but is more interested in pasting cutouts of Bollywood stars in her house and dance and frolic with her friends on Bollywood numbers. Her interest in studies is nil. Mother is hard working and wants daughter to become something in life, to escape the drudgery of being a maidservant, which is her own profession.

But daughter thinks that mother has no money and resources to help her get into higher education and when the mother tells her of her dreams for her, the daughter tells her point blank that maidservants’ daughters are meant to be maidservants only-leaving the mother stunned.

In order to shame the daughter into studying more, mother enrolls into the same school and class as her daughter- an idea which is brainwave of her mistress (Ratna Pathak) who is a doctor. Daughter is too ashamed of admitting that the new student is her mother.

The mother’s attempts to learn are inspiring to say the least-making friends with the best student in the class, making a deal with him that she will bring him food in return for his help in studies; for he has no one in his house to cook food for him. In the midst of all this she continues to work hard in sweatshops to earn money.

Mother’s efforts are appreciated by daughter’s friends in class, to the daughter’s chagrin. They too improve their grades with mother’s help. Finally daughter agrees to study if mother will quit after she gets better grades.

But after all this come bitter disappointment and tears, for daughter refuses to change ways. And she humiliates mother by accusing her of having a illicit relationship with the man who drops her from work because it is late night when she returns.

So will daughter ever mend her ways ?
Will she accept her relationship with her mother before the class-something that she is loathe to do ?
When will mother be proud of daughter? Most importantly, when will daughter be proud that she has got such a mother? When will she realise the kind of struggle mother has to put up to raise her and hope for a better life for her than she got?

The struggles that mother has to put for daughter are heart rending- watch her trying to meet the high government official of the district just to know how he studied to reach such a position, fighting and arguing with his security guards so that she can tell her daughter how to study to become a high government official. Watch her working in a roadside hotel with sweat dripping down her brow so that she can earn enough money to educate her daughter.

Acting is good by everyone—Swara Bhaskar is good but Ria Shukla is even better for her age. The headmaster of the school (Pankaj Tripathi) puts a comic touch to his acting quite effectively. There are no songs but music is still the strong point of the film and is quite effective in keeping you engaged in watching the movie.

But it is a small movie with no songs and no expensive sets and decidedly unglamorous settings. Only people with an interest in off beat and art movies should watch this movie or at least that is what I thought. But this idea was belied by the large number of small children who had swarmed the theatre. They had been presumably brought by their parents to show them a mother’s efforts to make her daughter study and thus the parents were hoping the movie would induce their own children to study too.


Three stars.