Sunday, January 13, 2008

Halla Bol

Rating : 7/10
Running Time : 180 minutes
Release Date : 11th Jan ‘08
Director & Writer : Rajkumar Santoshi ; Music : Sukhwinder Singh
Starring : Ajay Devgan, Vidya Balan, Pankaj Kapur, Darshan Jariwala

The movie made me recall certain incidents I'd heard / seen recently...
1) A politicians son was playing Diwali very recklessly, throwing burning crackers near the neighbours kids. When the neighbour objected, he ignored him and continued. The neighbour went and held his hand to stop him. The son went inside, came back with his four armed to the teeth security guards. One placed a pistol on the neighbours forehead, began to abuse him and ask him how dare he touch the son. Another slapped him a couple of times. And then they told him to go back to his house, shut of his lights as Diwali had ended for him. Only when his family (parents, brother etc) apologised profusely, he was allowed to go back to his house without further damage.
2) There was a traffic jam due to roadworks, where cars were lined up in a very long line, creeping forward inch by inch. Suddenly, on the right (on the wrong side of the road), a Maruti 800 comes roaring up and tries to cut in the line but since there is no space, ends up blocking the traffic going the other way. As everyone yells at the car for making a bad situation worse, the co-passenger of the Maruti gets out of the car, yells back at everyone else, ensures his car breaks the queue and then drives off.
3) A dalit person recently had his eyes gouged out for daring to elope with his upper-class girlfriend.

These are all true incidents, cases of the frightening new reality of 'might is right' and of people in India, especially the soft-bellied middle class choosing to keep quiet as they watch artrocities / injustice happening all around them.

Halla Bol brings to the forefront this very reluctance, this very tapestry of wrongs being inflicted upon our society. So whats new, why should we watch this one ? Its quite well made (very good script), not very preachy and lit up by some outstanding performances. Sameer Khan (Ajay Devgan) is a superstar, at the zenith of his success and doing all the things a celebrity does including make people wait hours for him, taking 'personal' auditions from nubile aspiring starlets, back-stabbing fellow actors, endorsing products purely for money etc etc. In short (and I can vouch for some of the above having dealt with some celebrities recently), he behaves like a typical Bollywood star. Suddenly, an incident happens which forces him to choose a path – he has to either speak out and incur the wrath of the high and mighty or be quiet, lie and take the easy way out. He chooses the latter.
However, he is clearly uncomfortable with the choice and via flashback we see how he has come up in life. How, from doing street plays with his guru, Siddhu (Pankaj Kapur), a fearsome dacoit turned theatrical actor / playwright, he has fought his way to the top. How he changed as a person, from being a bit of a firebrand, believing in causes, to becoming someone who only cares for wealth and fame, becoming estranged from his wife (Vidya Balan), parents and even his guru. What happens next and the consequences is the focus of most of the movie.

Okay, its predictable, the plot is nothing really new but as I said before, there is still something to the movie which keeps you gripped from start to finish. The opening part is very slick, full of light hearted poking at the current Bollywood set-up. The second part is reasonably real and so can be uncomfortable to watch. There are one or two very nice songs – I really liked 'Is Pal ki Soch', sensuously sung by Harshdeep Kaur. Ajay Devgan is very good – he handles the lighter moments with aplomb (there is one scene where for a few seconds he practices a smile in front of a mirror) and later he morph's quite easily into a man torn apart by his choice, bearing the burden of guilt etc. I've realised that Ajay's forte is films which require him to communicate through silence rather than dialogue. As in Omkara, he is very good as the strong / silent hero, managing to communicate a lot just by his demeanour and facial expressions. I dont think anyone broods on screen better than him, and I mean that as a compliment.

However, the true star of the movie for me was Pankaj Kapur – he was simply outstanding. Filling the screen with his personna, alternating between strong silence and powerful outspokenness. The best scene of the movie was when he lapses into baby speak when faced with the carrot and threat scenario from one of the high and was brilliant and he was unrecognizable from the last time I saw him on screen in Blue Umbrella.

Another of the high and mighty is shown to have an uncanny resemblance, appearance and profession wise, to Vijay Mallya. I didn't get / understand the background to that ? Any enlightenment here would be welcome. Also, we took the kids along with us and I dont think that was such a good idea.

I dont think of myself as a coward, am well-educated, well-to-do, fairly well-connected but I, like the many millions alongside me, have developed the knack of looking the other way, of shying away from taking a stand, of taking the easy way out. As Gandhiji's brilliant satyagraha movement proved, its very difficult to get the Indian masses mobilised to actually do something. Its far easier to get them not to do something. Halla Bol puts you face to face with this characteristic of ours. Its not a movie for the squeamish or someone looking for light hearted entertainment. It puts a mirror in front of us individually and, in most cases, we may not like what we see...


Anonymous said...

Rightly said " All have developed the knack of looking the other way, of shying away from taking a stand, of taking the easy way out".. Yes they have.. i have several times thought of getting things sorted out but then take a step back ward.Its the mindset, the society.. Not a reason bt reality.. Wish the movie had a stronger impact though.. if realistic(if i may say so)movies like these can remind one of his responsibility as a citizen of india then why not? But sadly it is not the case..Well another movie with a social message, trying to awaken the manushatv in all.. Thanks your power packed review ..

Anonymous said...

my fav. scene - " yeh dhaar hai .. pure Indian".... simply awesome ...