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Review: Halla Bol

movie reviews Updated: Jan 11, 2008 19:47 IST
Khalid Mohamed
Khalid Mohamed
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

Halla Bol
Cast: Ajay Devgan, Pankaj Kapur, Vi Ba (hardly there)
Direction: Rajkumar Santoshi
Rating: **

Just look at those Belgian chandeliers, Venetian gondoliers, Persian rugs, Beijing mugs, paintings from Idaali (where’s that?), and whisky from Scoutland (must look up map). A manic minister has them all. But then his opponent unzips, urinates on the rug and seethes, “This is the dhaar of Hindustan!”

Now, that’s Rajkumar Santoshi’s downright awful Halla Bol, packed with mind-benders galore. Like the unzipper’s wife who enlightens a TV crew, “My husband has balls!” Oho. Then a Wigipidea godman is informed that there’s nothing between his mouth and posterior. “You arsehole,” it’s hissed.

Evidently, Mr Santoshi has lost the plot. Or else, he has gone rabidly retro, the anti-Establishment un-zipper reminding you of dear old Jeetendra going ballistic in Jyoti Bane Jwala. Truly, it rains bombastic rhetoric, plain demagoguery, absurdities (the minister demolishes his stained Persian rug house quirkily) and pseudo-socialist quack quacks.

And there are more cliches here than new cars in the market nowadays. The minister’s opponent -- movie superstar Sameer Khan (Ajay Devgan), born Ashfaque -- is a tabloid’s dream come very true. Zip-unzip Ashfy becomes a mega-star after doing Ravi Kissen-type of movies, invites shady ladies to the vanity van, edits his co-actor’s role (poor Tusshar Kapoor’s.. wasn’t Ekta around?) and guzzles Scoutland beverages. Hic hic.

<b1>Plus, he neglects his wife (Vidya Balan), adores his child (Whining Machine), and is so ungrateful that he tells his guru to take a long walk. Tsk, so tsk. Guru (Pankaj Kapur) is a combo of Safdar Hashmi-Phoolan Devi-Shaolin-swordfighter. He’s our superstar’s conscience, popping up whenever the plot sags which is very often.

Indeed, Guruji storms through a minefield of cliches: Muslim homes with green-blue walls (barkhurdhar, where where?), truck collisions on a deserted Ballard Pier lane straight of Ghayal, and ministerial chambers which are forever receiving High Command calls from New Delhi. Obviously, Santoshi saab has just been watching too many Jwalamukhi Jeetendra and ex-inquilabi-Bachchan movies lately.

And there are the kookiest coincidences galore: a forensic lab acquaintance digs out incriminating evidence from a pyramid. Funnier still, is the leery cop who eats up a tell-tale piece of paper as if it were a masala dosa. Inference: the police is clueless about xerox copies.

About the only redeeming feature is the interaction between the superstar and the guru, harking back to the days when they protested against social injustice through street plays. The sequence showing the actor back out of a public performance requested by his mentor is sharply written and directed.

Snag: Santoshi picks up elements from real life and then he’s either shallow or hysterical about them. The allusion to the Jessica Lal murder case is underdeveloped and gratuitous. The re-opening of the case under the pressure of public opinion is handled through the stock montage of TV bytes.

More gratings are those expressionless rich sons of that minister (Darshan Jariwala, howlarious) and a liquor baron (pure oakwood) wear shirts that couldn’t have cost more than Rs 100. Chalo make that Rs 200.

Incidentally, Santoshi keeps sniping away at the intrusive ways of the media (like he did in Damini) and then backtracks to show journos crusading for the re-investigation of the murder. Spare us the contradictions, please.

Technically as dated as the script, the result has an efficient performance by Ajav Devgan as the conscience-bitten superstar. The excellent Pankaj Kapur, with all the scenes written in his favour, steals the show effortlessly. Vidya Balan is supremely wasted.

This one should have been titled Halla Bhool.

Such bard luck.

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