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 Hindi-language 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$970,000) 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.
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 (Swara 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 improve her grades to be eligible for a discount at the tuition. Apu, however, refutes the plan saying that she is destined to work as a maid as her mother cannot afford to pay for higher education anyway. 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. Chanda befriends her classmates and impresses the teachers with her steady progress. She enlists the help of her shy classmate Amar (Vishal Nath) to understand math and makes use of mind maps on his advice.
Apu continues to struggle to get grades and is further angered by her mother’s success. Chanda promises to drop out of school of Apu manages to score a better grade than her on their next math test. With Amar’s help and constant studying, Apu manages to get a good score. However, Chanda backs out of her promise on seeing that Apu was not committed to continue studying. After allotting more time to school, she is fired from one of her jobs and is forced to pick up a night shift at a restaurant. Apu assumes that Chanda has been soliciting; she steals her savings and spends it 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 Collector (Sanjay Suri). In the meantime, Amar tells Apu about her mother’s new work arrangements at the restaurant which she mistook for soliciting. Remorseful, Apu rekindles her interest in school and begins to treat her mother with respect. She gets Chanda to re-enroll and the two finish their SSC year together.
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.
The cast is listed below:
Swara Bhaskar as Chanda Sahay
Ria Shukla as Apeksha “Apu” Shivlal Sahay
Aditi Tailang as Grown up Apeksha
Ratna Pathak Shah as Dr. Diwan
Pankaj Tripathi as Principal Srivastava
Ganesh Kumar as Hindi teacher
Sanjay Suri as District Collector
Neha Prajapati as Sweety
Prashant Tiwari as Pintu
Vishal Nath as Amar