Nil Battey Sannata


Safecity is reviewing films that are stepping out to highlight the innate gender roles, discrimination, stereotypes, sexual harassment, misogyny and sexism which have been an ingrained part of cinema for a long time through our blog series “Feminism in Reel Life”authored by Ishmeet Nagpal. 

A dentist turned social activist, Dr. Ishmeet Nagpal has been working for women’s health and gender rights for 4 years in different parts of India. Currently in Mumbai, she works with students and journalists, on issues of gender identity and gender perceptions, as well as sexual harassment at the workplace.

Nil Battey Sannata- When women are allies

What picture comes to mind, when we think about a single mother in India, struggling to make a better life? Can we already hear the tragic music in the background? Nil Battey Sannata discards this existing pattern of despondency and leads us on a unique journey of self discovery and aspirations.

The movie starts off with a glimpse into the lives of a domestic help Chanda (played by Swara Bhaskar) and her teenage daughter. Chanda works multiple jobs and runs from pillar to post to make sure her daughter does not give up on her education. She leaves no stone unturned to find a way so that her daughter doesn’t end up like her. Her love and concern transcends the stereotype of laad pyar,  and reflects the very real conversations that may take place in any home, regardless of social and financial status. Their relationship and camaraderie is beautiful, something the daughter learns to cherish through the course of this story.

Chanda wants her child to do well in studies and aspire to a better career than herself, even though the child has pessimistically reconciled to the possibility of being a bai herself. The change in attitude of a parent from treating a child like an investment, to only wishing her success from pure love, is much needed for the broader goal of women empowerment. When parents stop viewing their children as potential earners and budhaape ka sahaara, it could help shift focus from what a child could give them in terms of financial support, and hence help lead to a world where all children are wanted, irrespective of gender, sexuality, or disability.

Chanda inspires her daughter to dream by having undying faith in her own dreams and showing her that it is never too late to try to better yourself.  The characters who help them along their path, make us wish we had more such good people around. Pankaj Tripathi portrays the Principal of the school who is genuinely concerned about his students’ progress, and in his own way, a big part of encouraging the mother-daughter duo. The math genius of the class goes out of his way to help them, with no intention of seeking anything in return. He displays intense sensitivity and strength as he looks beyond his own trials and gains deep understanding of Chanda’s struggle. The friendship Chanda shares with her employer (played by Ratna Pathak Shah), and the help and advice she gets from those around her, assure us that humanity is not lost yet. A rousing and feel good film, Nil Battey Sannata is a statement on sisterhood between women of all ages and social strata, united in their hope of a better future.

Watch this movie to celebrate a mother’s endless endeavors to make her dreams come true, while never foisting them on her daughter; and a daughter’s coming of age story, as she discovers her own potential.

Opinions expressed are of the writer.



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