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Halla Bol : Movie Review
11th Jan 2008 23.35 IST
By Naresh K. D.
No matter how well intentioned Halla Bol is, the film, at the end of the day, fails to stir you up.
Rajkumar Santoshi is back with another film that raises pertinent questions and tries to prick your conscience through a story that has a Santoshi stamp all over it. At the centre of the story is a protagonist who dares to raise his voice against injustice and, in doing so, makes himself the target of powerful people (a corrupt politician and a liquor baron) whose sons are the perpetrators of the crime.
What mars 'Halla Bol' is Santoshi's unsubtle and stale treatment of the subject. Even though the director raises a new issue in this film, he gives it the same garb as we have seen in his films like 'Damini' and 'Ghayal'.
Among the villains we have a corrupt politician who twists the system to his convenience in full connivance with the police force. And then there are those seen-a-hundred-times sequences of the protagonist's family being threatened, his car being run-over by a truck at night, his house being attacked by hooligans and many such obvious clichés of Santoshi's past films.
In a nutshell, 'Halla Bol' offers nothing fresh, even though it deals with an entirely new and much relevant subject. You will see what I mean when you get an overview of the story.
Sameer Khan ( Ajay Devgan ) is a film star corrupted by stardom. He feels no pangs of conscience in sleeping with girls willing to be couched for a Bollywood break. A disloyal husband and a selfish actor, Sameer gets his rude awakening when he witnesses the murder of a girl at a party.
Even as the killers walk out of the party with their heads held high, Sameer, like other celebrities, prefers to turn a blind eye to the murder. But there is something good in Sameer that provokes him to do soul searching. That good comes from his past.
Superstar Sameer Khan once used to be a small town theatre artist called Ashfaque. Along with his guruji Siddhu ( Pankaj Kapur ) he used to perform street plays dealing with social issues. Ashfaque was a simple but ambitious man whose passion for acting just about surpassed his love for Sneha ( Vidya Balan ), whom he eventually marries. However, with his first big Bollywood break, Ashfaque becomes Sameer Khan. Fame changes not just his name, his character too. Stardom goes to his head. And his selfish ambition alienates him from his wife, his guru and his parents.
Sameer lives his lonely, depraved and debauched life until his conscience wakens after witnessing the murder at party. He decides not to be a mute spectator to injustice. He decides to testify as a witness and bring the culprits, however powerful they be, to justice.
What follows reminds you Santoshi's past films. A sweet-talking corrupt politician (whose son is one of the accused) threatens Sameer with dire consequences if he does not retract from his statement. When cajoling and coercion fail, the politician has his goons terrorize Sameer's family. Sameer is ditched by his peers in the film industry. His effigies are burnt by public. And just when it seems to be becoming one man's fight against the whole system, enters Siddhu, Sameer's guru and a reformed dacoit.
Gradually, Sameer's fight becomes the fight of avam. The public's conscience is awakened and the good emerges triumphant over the evil in the end.
More than the impact of the story, you carry home with you superb performances by Pankaj Kapur, Darshan Jariwala and Ajay Devgan. Kapur's portrayal of Sidhu is so powerful that you cringe in your seat when he stares fixatedly at the camera. Darshan Jariwala plays the sweet-talking corrupt politician with such conviction that you love to hate his character. Ajay Devgan brings a natural seriousness to his role. It is one of those roles that suit Devgan's natural flair. Vidya Balan is mostly reduced to the margins, but she does get a few meaty scenes.
Rajkumar Santoshi's intentions are noble indeed. But he keeps falling back on his old style of filmmaking in which a corrupt system goes to dangerous extents to muffle a rare call for truth and justice. 'Halla Bol' also exposes the hypocrisy of the elite and takes indirect potshots at Bollywood stars who know little else than to dance at marriages and endorse brands.
The film required a hard-hitting end, but the writers contrived the screenplay to suit their convenience. As a result, what should have been a riveting, evocative and enlightening end turns out to be a hurried and unconvincing conclusion to the story.
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