halla ho

A scene from “200 - Halla Ho.” (Publicity photo)

Going excessively into the weird / dark / absurd or depraved zones of cinematic forays, Yoodlee Films has done little for truly wholesome cinema that is also appealing to more than just the pseudo-intellectuals and a tiny fragment of normal audiences. In that sense, they deserve cheers this time round for a movie that not only examines a social evil (even if superficially) and blends it with some hard-hitting sequences.

Rinku Rajguru plays a Dalit activist who takes up cudgels for her colony of poor Dalits when she returns to her home precinct after a long gap and finds that they are being terrorized by a depraved brute (Sahil Khattar), who has an arrangement with them—send their girls or women to him and his limited gang so that they can be gang-raped, and occasionally even killed. This has bene going on silently for 10 long years!

The men and women are all terribly scared of the brute, all the more because he has influence with the local police, and he exercises ruthless vengeance if a complaint is lodged against him.

Thanks to the activist, 40 FIRs are filed against him all at once, and the cops are forced to arrest him. But what happens next is unimaginable. On the day of the trial, 200 Dalit women armed with chilly powder and knives and sundry home weapons (pen-knives et al) storm the courtroom, their faces veiled, and brutally kill the criminal who has brutalized their women for so long. The film opens with this macabre and chilling sequence.

Shock waves go across Nagpur, and the cops are ordered to make arrests anyhow, though the suddenness of it all has taken everyone unawares. A social worker (Flora Saini) organizes a fact-finding committee headed by retired Justice Dangle (Amol Palekar), himself a Dalit but an institution by himself, though five women are randomly arrested and even sentenced to life imprisonment, thanks to corrupt cop Suresh Patil (Upendra Limaye) and his superior. What happens next?

“200 - Halla Ho” grips for the most part of its 2 hour-plus length, but more as a passable crime thriller. The social angle is highlighted only by showing the Dalits as wretched have-nots who lack even basic guts, like Rinku’s character. Oddly enough, Justice Dangle becomes a paradoxical beacon of how a Dalit can flourish and shine in life with his own determination and intelligence. His existence makes the other Dalits look even more pathetic.

Nevertheless, a few intermittent sequences make the film pass a more than decent muster. The subdued love story of Rinku Rajguru and Barun Sobti; the sequence where Ronku defies Saahil; the opening sequence and many more make for an interesting narrative, despite some stretched points. Also, some emotionally superficial and thus self-defeating scenes like Justice Dangle’s breakdown come across as clumsily written and directed.

Sahil Khattar shines, a shade over-the-top though, as the brute. Rinku Rajguru never rises, as is her tendency, over a minimum level of decent acting. Amol Palekar seems out of peak form—even Navni Parihar as his wife in a tiny role does better! Sushama Deshpande as the old lady prisoner does the best from the cast, though Saloni Batra impresses as the fact-finding committee member. The rest are, to use a cliché, adequate.

This film may not be a must-watch in the way it is made, but it is certainly not a waste of resources and audience time like Yoodlee’s past excesses. If a social thriller is your cup of tea, you can go for it.

Rating: **1/2

Produced by: Siddharth Anand Kumar  & Vikram Mehra

Directed by: Sarthak Dasgupta

Written by: Abhijeet Das, Sarthak Dasgupta, Soumyajit Roy & Gaurav Sharma

Music: Pratik Nandan

Starring: Amol Palekar, Rinku Rajguru, Saloni Batra, Apurva Choudhari,  Sushama Deshpande, Ishtiyak Khan, Sahil Khattar, Upendra Limaye, Flora Saini,

Indraneil Sengupta, Pradhuman Singh, Barun Sobti, Punit Tiwari, Sahana Vasudevan & others

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