A Rousing Cry for Justice
By MovieTalkies.com, 11 January 2008
Raj Kumar Santoshi's Halla Bol, arrives with quite a bang at a very apt moment in the history of this city. The most heartening thing about this film is that the director has given a heartful treatment to the subject of public apathy and the corruption in the higher echelons of society. It's not a subject which is novel to commercial cinema, but what is novel is the manner in which Santoshi's treats the same.
Halla Bol tells the story of an aspiring actor, Ashfaque (Ajay Devgan), a small-town lad, who works in a street theatre group run by a reformed dacoit Sidhu (Pankaj Kapur). He has aspirations of becoming a Hindi filmstar, and soon his dreams do come true. He becomes the hot superstar Sameer Khan and gets entangled in the trappings of success. He gradually moves away from all that was once close to him and his loved ones, including his wife Sneha (Vidya Balan), his parents, and his mentor Sidhu. The jaded superstar's conscience is jolted by a murder that he witnesses at a party. The rest of the film goes into exploring how he responds to the call of his conscience, joining hands again with his mentor to bring the guilty to the fore.
One cannot help but think of the Jessia Lal case when one looks this movie and there are certain superficial resemblances to the incident as well. But those resemblances apart, the film excels in the first part, where it deals with the rise of Sameer Khan the actor and the fall of Ashfaque the man, till the point when the fateful party happens. Being a part of the industry, both Santoshi and his lead actor Devgan, are able to get all the details absolutely pat. Very early in the film, right in beginning in fact, the director manages to establish the deceit which has become a part of Sameer's mental makeup. He has absolutely no qualms about fudging the details of his past so that it makes a good story. His relations with his wife have reached a nadir. That fateful party makes him face himself and he realizes that he and his present existence is nothing but a sham. What makes it even more galling for him is the fact that he knew the victim. The victim's young sister is big fan of his and like all fans, finds it difficult to look at the man and the actor as two separate personas. All his friends and acquaintances present at the party refuse to confess to the murder and he does the same, fearing that it will spoil his image. When Sameer finally comes out and changes his statement at the police station, the outcome is expected but it is perhaps more than he bargained for as the two guilty men happen to be sons of a politician and a high flying lawyer.
From here onwards, the film moves towards a predictable conclusion, but not before Sameer and his family have been terrorized, his reputation torn to shreds by the media and finally, he is battered in broad daylight, with not a word of protest uttered. Halla Bol moves at a very decent pace and keeps the viewers hooked right till the end. But one fears that it is not the screenplay so much in the second half, as the brilliant acting by Pankaj Kapur, Devgan and Balan, which takes one's breath away. Even Anjan Srivastav in a cameo, is excellent. The only problem area, if at all, is the manner in which Devgan tackles the goons, or for instance, the manner in which he barges into the politician's house and breaks his glass window. These are very Hindi filmy reactions and one guesses that Santoshi could not do away with them, seeing that his lead actor has honed his reputation in action films as well.
Kapur gets another opportunity to hammer home the point that he is one of the most accomplished actors that we have around. It is Hindi cinema's loss that they have not managed to use his talent appropriately. He blends in perfectly into the commercial format of this film and shows how through a mere look or a seemingly casual action, one can portray better and more intensely than through reams and reams of dialogues. He has the his ‘dialogues' as well to deliver, specially when he addresses the crowd after he comes out of the hospital, but it is the manner in which he does so, which makes it so effective. Devgan is another actor who is known for the intensity with which he imbues his performance and Halla Bol is no exception. With a solid author-backed role, the actor is able to play the jaded superstar as well as the idealistic Ashfaque, in his inimitable understated style of acting.
Balan may have a very minor role in terms of screen presence and dialogues, but she manages to make very good use of what little she has. She has an extremely intelligent and extremely sensitive face and uses it well. This is not her film, but still, in a certain manner of speaking, is her film as well. Darshan Jariwala as the powerful politician and Anjan Srivastav as Ashfaque's father, too come up with very good performances. What helps most in a film like this is that the dialogues, for the most part, have been intelligently penned and are devoid of useless clichés. The film's music rightly takes a backseat but full marks to Sukhvinder Singh for making the two devotional numbers, one a Gurbani, and the other a quwali, the high points of the film's music.
In all, Santoshi is to be credited for making a film on such a topical subject. He manages to exercise full control of his film in the manner in which he lets the story take precedence over any starry egos. The action is never diluted by any so-called commercial compulsions, and the end result is a film that works well. Even though Halla Bol moves towards its conclusion in a somewhat predictable fashion, it does not take away from the honesty of the film's approach or its integrity. And its impact should be no less than – Halla Bol!