I’ve often wondered why Aanand Rai didn’t cast Swara Bhaskara as Tanu. Why does this bundle of spontaneous joy, a sort of Jaya Bhaduri of this century, always have to play the heroine’s saheli? Is Swara destined to be the peripheral scenestealer like Aroona Irani or Farida Jalal?
That sobering thought haunted me until I saw the trailer of a film oddly entitled Nil Battey Sannatta, a pitch at female literacy peppered wth the kind of frothy earthy flamboyance of a small town in North India that can never be faked, and can only be created with actors who know what they are doing, and why, and where.
Everything about Nil Battey Sannatta is real and enchanting to the core, like scenes from a documentary played out at a decently dramatic decibel to get our attention. The film’s trailer promises a simple story about a mother(Swara Bhaskara) a domestic help, and her teenaged daughter Apeksha, aka Apu, played by spirited young lady Ria Shukla.
From what we see in the trailer the mother-daughter scenes are so warmly referential they take us into the centre of the Hindi heartland where illiterate and semi-literate mothers dream of educating their children.
The daughter here has her own logic for pooh-poohing her mother’s ambitions. “A doctor’s child is a doctor , so a baai(maid servant)’s child is a baai.”
Mother Swara Bhaskara would have none of this. With the help of her kindly employer(Ratna Pathak Shah) she enrolls into school to complete her own education before dreaming big for her daughter.
Simple stirring premise and brilliant performance to look forward to, not only the ever-brilliant Swara but also Pankaj Tripathi as the school teacher who tries not to look scandalized when Ratna introduces Swara as the girl who wants to join in the same class as her daughter.
This is the kind of cinema that doesn’t need to make an effort to be endearing. All it needs is some tender loving nurturing. Swara is more than up to the task. Pun intended.