Film Review: Halla Bol


Film: Halla Bol

Cast: Ajay Devgan, Vidya Balan, Pankaj Kapoor

Director: Raj Kumar Santoshi

Music: Sukhwinder Singh

Produced By: Abdol Samee Siddiqui

Presented By: Studio 18 & Sunrise Pictures Pvt. Ltd.


Rating: 4.5/10


The film has a fire within it but fails to light up.


No one can beat Rajkumar Santoshi at making immortal classics of films that revolve around social concerns and mass-morals. With a gleaming track record of masterpieces like Ghayal, Damini, Lajja (to name a few) Halla Bol almost seems like a supreme exercise in disinterest. Needless to say, the end-result is disappointment of anticipations sky-high.


Halla Bol is a crusader’s story and as a film, is a crusade itself. Based on the Jessica Lal murder case, it charts the journey of a superstar from escape to taking a stand, from lies to truth, from existence to living and from a being to a human. Superstar Sameer Khan has the world at his feet when he witnesses an actress’ murder and refuses to acknowledge having seen it until his nagging conscience eggs him to take a stand. The film forms this journey of Sameer Khan from reel-life hero to real-life hero. A journey promising to take its audience along but keeping it behind at every step and proclaiming its own singular victory without the audience participating in it.


Evidently a bad film, Halla Bol’s problem lies in its vision. It stems from a distinctly ‘filmy’ under-developed realistic or political vision that never fully cajoles one enough to fully suspend that disbelief. A meandering and cluttered screenplay with tons of information, justification and set-ups but lacking a soul combines with insipid dialogues by someone in first-year Film School to kill an otherwise powerful story.


 The goal of rousing consciences slumped under ages of social, political and personal debris is an ambitious one. This goal becomes over-ambitious because the voice does not employ a manner of speaking that may stand tall against the century-old silt of pacifist/accommodist arguments, a manner which is either refreshingly new or shockingly real. Halla Bol is a child of no-man’s land. A style rooted in the dramatic tensions and devices the 90’s were famous for and lifestyles that are a decade advanced. In so many ways nothing has changed but unfortunately the film fails to match typical thought to contemporary sensibilities and ride astride that which has changed.


The enemies of the public today are scattered within the various strata that we have made for ourselves. Fighting our ghosts was simple a decade back. It was middle-class morals and the issue of security which needed a jerk into golden-age idealism. Today, it is an apathy borne out of extreme violence, corruption, disillusionment borne out of myriad broken promises, a security borne out of vast amounts of money and an option of escape into an alternate ‘safer’ world abroad in a whisk of a moment, to name a few. These multi-headed dragons cannot be slayed anymore with a simplistic, uni-dimensional yet passionate speech by a path-breaking hero. Consciences haven’t been deaden by corruption, they have been deadened by a lack of solutions in a society with lifestyles and subsequent morals changing too fast. To succeed in the larger context, the film and Sameer were required to be far more multi-dimensional than they are.


The film employs tons of clichés and patched up scenes to tell it’s story and the only reason it deserves a mention is for some brilliant performances by the lead cast Ajay Devgan, Vidya Balan and Pankaj Kapoor. Ajay portrays the character transitions of a stars-in-his-eyes-struggler to a much-adored matinee idol to a conscience-ridden individual caught in the test of humanity. Vidya plays Ajay’s understated, simple and balanced wife with a distinct maturity. But it is Pankaj Kapoor who steals the show with a charge, powerful performance as Sameer’s dacoit-turned-crusader Guruji and proves what a stalwart he is. Darshan Jariwala shows a distinct effort in getting into the skin of his character but miserably fails to scare or convince.


The film is surprisingly below par technically with cinematography undoing a lot of tension that the script tries hard to build with clipped or too wide frames. It leaves a lot room for imagination in crowd and combat scenes as well which end up seeming a tad bit tacky. The continual play between sharp and soft-focus is a mystery in film-making history. Editing saves the lengthy film from getting tedious as it crops scenes sharply enough to register and lingers only when necessary. To an extent it does save the crowd and combat scenes.


Halla Bol had a very strong team of makers and actors supporting it not to mention the budget. But as it turns out it fails as a crusade, it fails as a journey, and so does it fail as an experience.