Halla Bol – Movie Review
It’s a movie with a social message but it’s the first time I’ve seen a movie with so many messages! Halla Bol, which means Raise your Voice/Shout Out (against injustice) is about the terrible, corrupt and apathetic society we live in and the movie tackles all these problems. Problems ranging from police corruption, political corruption, a voyeuristic media and a passive society to crime against women, the hollowness of Bollywood, of advertising, and the debauchery of high society…
That should make this film a hotch potch of various elements – right? Surprisingly, no. It wasn’t bad at all. The director, Raj Kumar Santoshi, manages to weave in the various elements quite skillfully and the story proceeds in a coherent though cliched manner.
The movie opens with Ajay Devgan, who plays Sameer Khan, a top Bollywood actor. He is a small town boy who wants to become a Bollywood star at any cost. His real name is Ashfaque, but he changes it to Sameer Khan and this is supposed to convey that his Bollywood persona is not his true self. Well, Khan is quite a cad and that’s a mild word! He is unprofessional, sleeps with his heroines, doesn’t keep to his commitments, squashes new talent, does too much advertising (these scenes are hilarious!) and likes to roughshod over the director’s vision. Worse, he lies. Good to see Bollywood laugh at itself! For once Bollywood hasn’t just trashed police officers, politicians and the media – it has trashed itself as well! There is this recurrent mockery of the Bollywood ‘hero’ who is a coward in real life.
So is Sameer Khan an anti-hero? That’s what I thought at first….but as the story unfolds we realise that there are depths to the character. If I write more about this it will give away the story. Suffice to say that there is a murder and that is what sets Sameer Khan off on a quest to find his real self.
The movie is a harsh indictment of Indian society because policemen and politicians are shown as very very evil and ofcourse- filthy rich.
Devgan acted quite well but unfortunately the acting of most of the others in the film was unimpressive. I did like Pankaj Kapoor who a plays Sidhu, guru-cum-ex-bandit. Darshan Jariwala is the villain of the piece (corrupt politician) and he does a good job. Actually both Jariwala and Kapoor plays caricatures rather than characters. This technique of the director’s makes an exaggerated point and adds humour. To some extent almost everyone in the film is a caricature.
What I really liked about this film (what moved me) were the scenes which showed the apathy of the public. In this sense the movie reminded me of Rang de basanti. But I liked this film better than Rang De (though Rang De is a better made film) as it was less violent and the ending not as tragic as in Rang De.
The scene where Ashfaque performs a street play (Halla Bol) to raise awareness of an issue central to the movie (the murder of a young innocent girl) is very moving. There are thousands of people watching but when Ashfaque is attacked, no one comes forward to help him. And his play is sending out the very same message! That people are apathetic and if don’t shout out, one day they themselves will become victims.
While this scene was going on I couldn’t help thinking of the recent molestation case at Juhu where scores of men stood by and watched the fun. And now this gang of men who were roaming Juhu in a big gang are protesting their innocence, giving all sorts of excuses as to why they did nothing! Ofcourse to my mind the fact that these men were in the centre of the mob, right next to the women makes their claim that they are innocent a suspicious one, but even assuming that they did not molest the women…what sort of people would stand a foot or two away from a woman being stripped and molested and watch? Do these type of people enjoy watching women being stripped against their will? In Halla Bol too the victim is a woman and in a way this movie is well-timed. While watching the movie I was reminded of the Jessica Lal murder case as well, where almost all witnesses turned hostile in the beginning.
I think every Indian living in India will be able to relate to the happenings in the movie as we all see this first hand and to some extent we are all guilty for not speaking out.
Vidya Balan does nothing in the movie except play the devoted wife. Not much scope or screen time for her. But she fits the role. The director wasted no time on her emotions and how she comes to terms with an unfaithful husband…the movie was devoted to societal issues.
I thought the editing of the movie was good. I liked the way the flashback scenes were done. I detest movies where the viewer is constantly taken into the past as it can disturb the flow of the movie. The director had just one long flashback scene, inserted at the right time and it was perfect. Even otherwise, the editing work was of a high quality.
Overall, this film is watchable. Not top class cinema certainly but a film with a strong social message presented in an entertaining way. If only I liked Ajay Devgan a little more! But he is certainly not on my list of favorites…but well, I still thought the movie was alright. But don’t expect too much. It’s a Bollywood masala film, but serious. It’s got a happy ending though.