Nil Battey Sannata

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Nil Battey Sannata
Bhaskar and Shukla smiling in a red saree and a blue dress respectively.
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari
Produced by
Written by
Starring
Music by Rohan & Vinayak
Cinematography Gavemic U. Ary
Edited by Chandrashekhar Prajapati
Production
company
Distributed by Eros International
Release date
  • September 2015 (2015-09) (Silk Road Film Festival)
  • 22 April 2016 (2016-04-22)
Running time
104 minutes
Country India[1]
Language Hindi
Box office 69 million (US$1.0 million)[2]

Nil Battey Sannata (lit. Zero Divided by Zero Equals Nothing; slang for "Good For Nothing"), released internationally as The New Classmate, is a 2015 Indian comedy-drama film directed by Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari in her feature debut. Produced by Aanand L. Rai, Ajay Rai, and Alan McAlex under the banners of Colour Yellow Productions and JAR Pictures, the film was co-written by Iyer, Neeraj Singh, Pranjal Choudhary, and Nitesh Tiwari. Swara Bhaskar starred as Chanda Sahay, a high-school drop-out household maid and single mother of a sullen young girl named Apeksha, played by Ria Shukla. The film's theme is a person's right to dream and change their lives, irrespective of social status.

Released in India on 22 April 2016, Nil Battey Sannata was distributed by Eros International and garnered critical and audience acclaim. Reviewers praised most aspects of the production, especially its narrative and realism, and the performances of the cast, Bhaskar's in particular. At the 62nd Filmfare Awards, Iyer won the Filmfare Award for Best Debut Director, while Bhaskar and Shukla won the Screen Awards for Best Actress (Critics) and Best Child Artist respectively. The film did well at the box-office, collecting a total of around 69 million (US$1.0 million) during its entire theatrical run. The same year, the film was remade in Tamil as Amma Kanakku, with Iyer returning to direct. The following year, it was remade in Malayalam as Udaharanam Sujatha.

Plot[edit]

Apeksha "Apu" Shivlal Sahay (Shukla) is an unmotivated student who has managed to reach her SSC year in school despite her lack of interest in studying further. She struggles in mathematics alongside her friends, Sweety (Neha Prajapati) and Pintu (Prashant Tiwari). Her single mother Chanda (Bhaskar), a high-school drop-out, works four different menial jobs, which include working as a maid for Dr. Diwan (Pathak).

Troubled by her daughter's indifferent attitude, Chanda narrates her dilemma to Dr. Diwan, who suggests that she hire a math tutor for Apu. Chanda is told that Apu must pass her pre-board math exams to receive a considerable discount for the tuition. Hearing this, Apu replies that she is destined to work as a maid, as Chanda cannot provide financially for any higher education. With the encouragement of Dr. Diwan, Chanda enrolls in Apu's school so that she can learn math and tutor Apu herself. This embarrasses Apu, and she continuously ridicules her mother. No one, except for the school's principal Mr. Srivastava (Tripathi), is aware of Chanda's relationship to Apu; she manages to befriend Apu's classmates, including Sweety and Pintu, and impresses her teachers with her steady progress. Chanda enlists the help of her shy classmate Amar (Vishal Nath) to understand math and makes use of mind maps on his advice.

Apu is angered by her mother's success in math, as she herself continues to fail to understand it. Chanda challenges Apu to achieve grades higher than hers in math; if she is successful, Chanda promises to drop out of school. With Amar's help and constant studying, Apu manages to complete the challenge. Her mother is overjoyed, but is heartbroken when Apu informs her that she performed well in school with the sole purpose of ensuring her mother's absence at school. In her anger, Chanda breaks her promise and returns to school, performing even better than before, much to Apu's chagrin. After allotting more time to school, Chanda loses one of her four jobs and begins to work at a restaurant because Amar recommends the job.

One night, she is dropped off at home by one of her male colleagues; Apu witnesses this and assumes that Chanda has been soliciting. She steals the money that Chanda has been collecting to pay for the math tuition and spends it all on food and new clothes. This devastates Chanda, who becomes depressed when Apu tells her that the money was not hard-earned. Chanda stops attending school and continues to work with the hope that Apu will join the Indian Administrative Service, after she is inspired by a kind District Magistrate and Collector (Sanjay Suri). In the meantime, Amar helps Apu realise her mistake by making her witness Chanda working at the restaurant. Apu rekindles her interest in school and begins to treat her mother with respect, having realised that she can perform well if she possesses the will. She brings her mother back to school and the duo finish their SSC year together.

With a scenic view of the Taj Mahal, Chanda motivates Apu to always follow her dreams, as they are dependent on efforts and not circumstances. A few years later, Apu attends her Union Public Service Commission Civil Service Examination interview, having passed her examinations successfully. After being asked what inspired her to apply for the IAS, she answers that she is inspired by her mother, who now tutors struggling math students for free.

Cast[edit]

The cast is listed below:[1]

Production[edit]

Bhaskar, in a white dress smiling at the camera.
Bhaskar was sceptical about the film because of the age difference between her and her character.

Nil Battey Sannata was directed by Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari in her directorial debut.[3] She conceived the idea for the film while working with Leo Burnett Worldwide, a Chicago-based advertising company, for a Kaun Banega Crorepati promotional video.[4][5] The screenplay was written by Iyer, Neeraj Singh, Pranjal Choudhary and Nitesh Tiwari.[1][4] In an interview with The Indian Express, Iyer said that "the story of Nil Battey Sannata is relevant as well as inspiring".[6] The film's title translates to "Zero Divided by Zero Equals Nothing", and is a slang for "Good For Nothing".[7]

After going through the script, JAR Pictures' Ajay G. Rai decided to produce the film, and insisted on Iyer to direct it as well. Although initially reluctant, Iyer agreed to direct and learnt the major aspects of cinematography as a part of her preparation.[4] Gavemic U Ary worked as the cinematographer for the film, and Kunal Sharma headed the sound department. The visual effects were provided by Prasad Film Labs, a motion picture post-production studio based in Hyderabad, and the costumes were designed by Sachin Lovalekar.[1]

Mukesh Chhabra was the film's casting director.[4] Swara Bhaskar was the first to be cast in the role of Chanda Sahay, a single mother of a 15-year-old girl. Initially sceptical about playing a mother on screen early in her career, she changed her mind after reading the script.[8][9] To understand the role better, Bhaskar stayed with professional domestic helpers from Agra, Uttar Pradesh, where the film is set.[9] She bought such props as a handbag, a comb, a pocket mirror, and rubber chappals.[10] She also drew guidance from her mother's experiences of handling a teenage daughter. After the film's release, Bhaskar said in an interview with Daily News and Analysis that her friends in the Hindi film industry advised her not to take up the role as they felt it would be a "career suicide" for her. She agreed to participate in the project because "the story stayed in [her] mind".[9] The next role to be cast was that of the 15-year-old daughter of the protagonist. Ria Shukla was selected for the role after auditions in Lucknow.[4] Ratna Pathak and Pankaj Tripathi play supporting roles in the film.[6][11] A group of around 25 local children played the students at the school.[11]

Principal photography for Nil Battey Sannata commenced in May 2014 at Agra, and was completed by the end of November.[8] At several locations in Agra, the crew found it difficult to manage an "over-enthusiastic crowd".[12] The editing process began immediately after, and was supervised by Chandrashekhar Prajapati of the Pixon Studios.[8] The editor's cut was submitted for the Work-in-Progress Lab at the NFDC Film Bazaar.[13] Distributed by Eros International in India, Nil Battey Sannata's final cut ran for a total of 104 minutes.[14][15]

Soundtrack[edit]

The music for Nil Battey Sannata was composed by newcomers Rohan and Vinayak, with Manoj Yadav, Nitesh Tiwari and Shreyas Jain as lyricists for the soundtrack.[16][17] Joginder Tuteja's mixed review for Bollywood Hungama was largely appreciative of the songs "Murabba" and "Maths Mein Dabba Gul", also acknowledging the soundtrack's "rural flavor". He deemed the overall album to be "strictly situational".[16] The Times of India critic Mohar Basu gave the soundtrack a 3 out 5 star rating, saying that the "album wins you over with its innocence". Praising the pleasant "Murabba" and the catchy "Maths Mein Dabba", he asserted that the film "has music that will touch your heart".[18]

Track listing
No.TitleLyricsSinger(s)Length
1."Murabba"Manoj YadavNeuman Pinto3:54
2."Maths Mein Dabba Gul"Nitesh TiwariAarti Shenai, Rohan Utpat2:58
3."Maula"Manoj YadavNandini Srikar3:37
4."Maa"Shreyas Jain aka SherryMohan Kanan3:23
5."Maa (Hariharan)"Shreyas Jain aka SherryA. Hariharan3:23
6."Maa Theme" (Instrumental)  2:18
7."Chanda Theme" (Instrumental)  2:07
Total length:21:38[19]

Release[edit]

Marketing and release[edit]

Shukla, Tripathi, and Bhaskar smiling at the camera.
Ria Shukla, Pankaj Tripathi and Swara Bhaskar (from left to right) at the trailer launch of the film.

The film had its world premiere in the last week of September 2015 at the Silk Road Film Festival, Fuzhou, China.[20] It was released under the title of The New Classmate, as it was at such international film festivals like the Marrakech International Film Festival and the Cleveland International Film Festival.[21][22][23] The film then went on to be screened at the BFI London Film Festival (LFF) on 23 October 2015, and was lauded at the event.[3] The release of the first look of the film coincided with the International Women's Day, 8 March.[24] In the poster of the film, a smiling Swara Bhaskar is seen taking a leap with Ria Shukla in a red sari and a blue salwar kameez respectively. The poster was unveiled by the actress Sonam Kapoor, a close friend of Bhaskar.[24] The official trailer was released by Eros productions on 22 March 2016.[25] The launch took place at a media session in a classroom set-up with Bhaskar, Shukla and Pankaj Tripathi.[26] At the event, the film's producer Anand L Rai said, "I associated with Nil Battey Sannata straight from my heart and I'm feeling very proud of the film."[27] The trailer was well received by both critics and audiences.[26][27] A reviewer for Daily News and Analysis thought of it as "heartwarming".[28] The film had its theatrical release in India on 22 April 2016.[29]

Box office[edit]

Nil Battey Sannata released in India on fewer than 300 screens and had an average opening at the box-office. It collected 2.5 million (US$37,000) on its opening, but the figure grew on the second day as a result of positive word of mouth reviews.[30] The film collected 6.0 million (US$89,000) on Saturday and 10.5 million (US$160,000) on Sunday bringing the opening weekend collections to 19 million (US$280,000).[31] The film faced competition from other small-budget Hindi film releases Laal Rang and Santa Banta Pvt Ltd in its opening weekend at the box-office, but was expected to do well because of the positive reviews and good word of mouth.[32] The film collected 30 million (US$450,000) in its opening week.[33] It was declared tax free in the states of Uttar Pradesh and New Delhi by their respective state governments.[34][35] The film became a commercial success, and continued through the second week, increasing in rural areas of the country.[36] It had an impressive six-week run at the box office and its lifetime collections were around 70 million (US$1.0 million).[2]

Reception[edit]

Nil Battey Sannata opened to critical acclaim, and was positively received by the audiences as well.[37] It received overwhelming praise, chiefly for the direction, and for Bhaskar, Shukla and Tripathi. Kunal Guha of the Mumbai Mirror wrote, "It's rare to come across films that force you to keep aside your yardsticks of what a good film is and dive into the experience".[38] Namrata Thakur of Rediff.com gave the film the highest praise and deemed it "an absolute gem", saying "there is hardly a dull moment in the film". She considered it the feel-good film of the year, comparing it to 2015's Dum Laga Ke Haisha.[39] The Hindu journalist and film critic Namrata Joshi included Nil Battey Sannata in her year-end list of "Hindi films that made a mark in 2016".[40] She thought of it "a warm, feel-good film which offers hope and the promise".[41]

Bhaskar and Shukla smiling at the camera.
Swara Bhaskar and Ria Shukla both garnered praise for their performances.

The realism in the portrayal of the characters, and the universal theme of the film was widely lauded by critics. Gautaman Bhaskaran of Hindustan Times gave it 4 stars out of 5 and remarked that the film "is a powerful and honest work",[42] and Shubhra Gupta of The Indian Express noted that "the film relies on keeping things real".[43] Mohar Basu in his review at The Times of India described the movie as "unpretentious", saying that "the movie wins you over with its innocence and simplicity".[15] Saibal Chatterjee of NDTV said the film resonated as "a disarmingly simple and heart-warming film".[44] Suparna Sharma of Deccan Chronicle called it a "real film in a real setting about real people that delivers several empowering, powerful messages".[45]

The performances of the lead cast were chiefly praised by critics. Joshi, who was particularly impressed with the performances of Tripathi and Shukla, ascribed the film's appeal to its well-etched characters and their relationships which were "brought alive by a nicely put together ensemble cast".[41] The view was shared by Rachit Gupta of Filmfare, who noted that "the actors make this film so memorable". He gave Bhaskar the highest praise, saying that she delivered the "performance of a lifetime", while also praising Shukla's "super", Pathak's "phenomenal" and Tripathi's "masterclass" performances.[46] In his review, CNN-News18 film critic Rajeev Masand deemed Bhaskar to be "the heart of the film" noting that with "not one note out of place, she grabs your attention".[47] Udita Jhunjhunwala of Firstpost praised Bhaksar, stating that "This is one of her most nuanced performances and a welcome change", and highlighted Tripathi, calling him the "scene-stealer as the zealous school principal".[48]

Remakes[edit]

In November 2015, Iyer agreed terms to direct a remake of the film in Tamil, for producers Dhanush and Anand L Rai. Dhanush had been shown a preview of the film by Rai, during a visit to Mumbai in September 2015 and the duo chose to co-produce the film, with Iyer retained as director.[49] The roles played by Bhaskar, Shukla, Pathak, and Tripathi were essayed by Amala Paul, Yuvasri, Revathi, and Samuthirakani respectively in the remake, titled Amma Kanakku, which released on 24 June 2016.[50] A Malayalam remake, Udaharanam Sujatha, starring Manju Warrier was released in 2017.[51]

Accolades[edit]

Year Award Category Recipient(s) and nominee(s) Result Ref(s)
2016 Silk Road International Film Festival Best Actress Swara Bhaskar Won [52]
Screen Awards Best Actress–Critics Swara Bhaskar Won [53]
Best Child Artist Ria Shukla Won
Stardust Awards Film of the Year Nil Battey Sannata Nominated [54]
Filmmaker of the Year Ashwini Iyer Tiwari Nominated
Performer of the Year (Female) Swara Bhaskar Nominated
2017 Zee Cine Awards Best Supporting Actress Ratna Pathak Shah Nominated [55]
Best Debutant–Director Ashwini Iyer Tiwari Nominated
Best Debutant–Female Ria Shukla Nominated
FOI Online Awards Best Feature Film Nil Battey Sannata Nominated [56]
Best Actress in a Leading Role Swara Bhaskar Nominated
Best Actor in a Supporting Role Pankaj Tripathi Nominated
Best Actress in a Supporting Role Ria Shukla Nominated
Best Debut–Director Ashwini Iyer Tiwari Nominated
Best Story Nitesh Tiwari Won
Best Dialogues Ashwini Iyer Tiwari, Neeraj Singh, Nitesh Tiwari and Pranjal Choudhary Nominated
Best Background Score Rohan and Vinayak Nominated
Filmfare Awards Best Debut–Director Ashwini Iyer Tiwari Won [57]
9th Mirchi Music Awards Upcoming Music Composer of The Year Rohan Vinayak – "Maula" Nominated [58]
Upcoming Lyricist of The Year Shreyas Jain – "Maa"

References[edit]

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External links[edit]