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Halla Bol – Movie Review

January 15, 2008

halla-bol.jpgIt’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.

Related Reading: Movie Review Sunday
Movie Review Taare Zameen Par

10 Comments leave one →
  1. January 15, 2008 3:21 am

    Saw it this Sunday. Not entirely happy with it. But then when has history ever seen me leave the theater satisfied? My wife says I am always finding fault with movies (and the whole world, but that is another story another day), so I guess that means it’s okay.
    One example of finding fault:
    I test drove a driver for my wife’s car and just found him tolerable. Said as much to my wife, when she asked me how the new candidate was.
    “Great! That means he is a superb driver!” she said, and hired him.
    (sorry for the digression)

  2. January 15, 2008 7:57 am

    rdoc, actually even I wasn’t too happy with this movie and I hope that has come through in my review! But there were parts of the movie which were good, and well overall I would say ‘okay.’ certainly better than some movies I saw of late – one of them called Welcome! It was so terrible that I didn’t bother to write a review. but Welcome is a hit!
    regarding your exchange with your wife, I guess this restricts your ability to praise her? 🙂

  3. January 15, 2008 3:34 pm

    No, not actually. I don’t question my betters, so have little to criticise. OTOH, I have been unable to teach her this same philosophy!

  4. wishtobeanon permalink
    January 15, 2008 8:10 pm

    Hi Nita, thanks for posting these movie reviews – when we have the time, we can make sure that we watch only the good ones!

  5. January 19, 2008 3:22 pm

    Better than Rang De means really good Nita. I normally don’t like violent movies but I loved Rang De a lot.

  6. Naomi permalink
    January 19, 2008 4:57 pm

    I am a big fan of Raj Kumar Santhoshi and I liked this movie. Particularly because it has a strong social message which is very relevant to today’s India and it is very different from the usual ‘NRI movies’ which all bollywood fans are crazy about. I am living abroad, so at times appalled at the way men of India conduct themselves against women, and on top of that, the unresponsiveness of the public when they are witnesses to such crimes! I think this is a good movie which makes you think and which tells that the change can be brought to ‘India’s poor judicial system’ and the civil society in general, if we change our attitude to be quiet every time a crime occurs.

  7. January 19, 2008 10:20 pm

    Prerna, this movie is not as good as Rang De. I liked Halla Bol better only because I hated the end in Rang De and in fact the end put me off Rang De totally. You know sometimes somethings put one off really badly and in Rang de I loved the movie, until the end and then I thought what a terrible movie!! So that is why I liked Halla Bol better.

    Naomi, I agree the social message in the movie really comes through strongly and is very relevant to India today.

    wishtobeanon, be sure to read inbetween the lines of my movie reviews!

  8. Arunangshu permalink
    May 17, 2008 12:15 pm

    Its an excellent film with matter within it.
    Though its not a film just to Rome around tree or some bulshit NRI carry-catcher.

    Its very relevant movie and thanks to Ajay for portraying a strong message so efficiently and effectively. Society needs such kinds of movie more often. The value system is so poor today , this kind of film may give some punch. I know today’s disco going crowd and sakira belly dance loving audience may found it complete bogus.

    Pankaj Kapor is fabulous with his powerful acting.

    My personal thanks to Ajay and all film unit for this movie

    AB , Detroit, Michigan

  9. mahesh permalink
    March 7, 2010 4:41 am

    I think the movie was ok however not at all better than RDB; perhaps message is a tad bit better. RDB is a very well directed movie ( and no comparison to that should be made at all). This movie, on the other hand, is quite cliched though it does have some powerful moments. The end was so hurried… and the some of the beginning scenes (with unnecessary details) could have been easily deleted and may be replaced with a much more better end. The politician’s role (and his brother in law’s) was nothing original. Sidhu’s role was good. Although the role of the ajay’s family including his father in law was small but likable. I liked them all. So the movie was very filmy (cliched and masala) BUT with a very real message and that is why I would still recommend this movie to everyone. This movie evokes one’s conscience and this should be worthy enough to pay for a ticket! I would be a happier person if this movie was well executed since that would have sent the message across more strongly which I really want from this movie.

  10. Hamza Ismail permalink
    April 18, 2011 3:03 am

    Halla bol is a very thoughtful film which raises a sense of awareness among the audience. It refers to a very unexpected theme though it works at all costs. Raj Kumar Santhoshi has yet again shown he is a tremendous director and Ajay Devgan has given a mind-blowing performance!! Really worth a watch guys- I say checkK it out…..

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