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In the 1990s, rape, violence, power, crime, fraud and abuse -- issues that concern us daily, nationally as well as internationally, were being depicted on the Hindi screen with unfailing regularity. Films that raised a voice and raised an issue faded into oblivion because a different genre [comedy] gradually took over. The issues concerning the common man remained dormant on the Hindi screen.
But Rajkumar Santoshi raises one pertinent issue with Halla Bol. A lot has been said and written about the film bearing an uncanny resemblance to the Jessica Lal murder case. Does Halla Bol attempt to recreate the ghastly incident on celluloid? More on that later!
What's noteworthy is that Santoshi succeeds in stirring and pricking your conscience. The accomplished storyteller, who started off with a bang with Ghayal, Damini and Ghatak, films that raised a voice and issues, lost his touch in between, although he appealed greatly in The Legend Of Bhagat Singh in the intervening period. With Halla Bol, Santoshi is back with what he's best at -- hard-hitting drama.
Halla Bol is atypical Santoshi product, which re-opens wounds, is raw and hard-hitting and has life-like situations, with a savior who pricks your conscience. Frankly, Halla Bol is, without an iota of doubt, a film that reflects the current times. You can easily draw parallels with real life. Of course, there're cinematic liberties; it's not a dry film.
In short, we've had enough of meetha [comedies] since the past few weeks, it's time to have something teekha [hard-hitting drama] for a change. Halla Bol leaves that kind of an impact!
Ashfaque [Ajay Devgan] is a small-town boy aspiring to be a film star in the Hindi film industry. He joins a street theatre group run by a reformed dacoit Sidhu [Pankaj Kapur], who uses street theatre as a medium to bring about an awakening in the masses.
Ashfaque's determined struggle pays off and he gets a break in films. He gets a new screen name -- Sameer Khan. With the passage of time, the roles start becoming better and he moves up the success ladder in a very short time. Soon, he becomes Sameer Khan the superstar -- one who can enact any role with finesse, get under the skin of any and every character with ease and walk away with audience applause.
Sadly, amidst all adulation and applause, he slowly loses his own identity. He forgets his real self and imbibes all characteristics of the various roles essayed by him on screen. Corruption takes over his entire system, alienating him from all loved ones, including his wife Sneha [Vidya Balan].
A shocking incident at a party changes everything, rocking Sameer's lifestyle. He gets caught between his human self on one side and his corrupted superstar image on the other.
Rajkumar Santoshi interweaves a lot of plots in those 2 + hours. It tells you about the degenerating of a small-town person who gets swayed by money and power as he grows big in stature. It tells you about the games the rich and powerful play. It tells you that corruption has become a part of our everyday life. It tells you that a lone voice [raised against injustice] can multiply into millions gradually. It tells you that all's not lost, that honesty, integrity and courage still have an upper hand. What starts off as a movie about a self-obsessed star changes tracks within 20 minutes of the start, when the rich, spoilt brats shoot a young girl at a well-attended party and everyone stands there as mute spectators. The sequence is simply hair-raising! The gradual change in Ajay's attitude is also well built and the film actually gathers momentum at the intermission point when Ajay decides to testify against the culprits.
But the story actually takes off after the intermission when Ajay, aided by Pankaj Kapur, wages a war against the unscrupulous elements.
The sequence at the minister's palatial residence, when Ajay urinates on the carpet, is an outstanding, clapworthy sequence. The viewers would go in a frenzy at this sequence! Note another scene: The media persons are grilling Ajay if his wife has walked out on him and Vidya shoots back, giving the media a fitting reply. Note yet another sequence: The corrupt minister's sidekick [Abhay Bhargava] trying to bribe Pankaj Kapur and Pankaj's reply. And here's another gem: Pankaj Kapur's lengthy outburst when Ajay lies in the hospital. Brilliant sequences all, which bear the stamp of a genius!
However, the film can do with some trimming in the second hour. A few sequences can be trimmed for a much stronger impact. Also, the climax could've been more powerful.
Santoshi is in form after a gap. The film brings back memories of Santoshi's earlier works. Sukhwinder's music is okay. 'Na Guzre Huwe Pal' is a wonderful track, while the cry of war, the title track, enthuses you. Cinematography [N. Nataraja Subramaniam] is perfect. Dialogues [Santoshi, Ranjit Kapoor] are raw, but appealing. In fact, there are a number of clap-trap lines in the enterprise.
Every performance in Halla Bol stays etched in your memory. Ajay proves yet again that he's a magnificent actor. He conveys a lot through his expressions. Here's yet another award-worthy performance from one of the finest actors of the country. Vidya's role may not be as substantial as Ajay and Pankaj Kapur, but she's fiery in the sequences. Pankaj is awesome yet again. A power-packed performance. In fact, he's to Halla Bol what Sunny Deol was to Damini. Darshan Jariwala is superb, changing expressions like a chameleon.
Anjan Srivastava manages to create an impact. Abhay Bhargava is efficient. The actress enacting the role of the victim's sister is very good.
The film has a host of stars making appearances, which include Tusshar Kapoor, Jackie Shroff, Sridevi and Boney Kapoor, Kareena Kapoor, Neeraj Vora and Aarti Chhabria.
On the whole, Halla Bol is a powerful film that has its heart in the right place. At the box-office, Halla Bol has the power to grow with a strong word of mouth.