Fed up with stories of heroes and superheroes? Got bored of the tales of the winners and larger than life figures? Here’s a film that tells the story of two men who are neither heroes nor antiheroes. Of course, obviously, they’re not villains and they have no such capacity. Let’s call them Unheroes like unsung heroes. The Randeep Jha directorial Halahal tells the story of these unheroes and how the fight for the right by many tiny people ends up with a fight for life.
A known crime and unknown villains
The movie starts with an argument between a young lady and who is apparently her boyfriend (like who doesn’t have a boyfriend these days and who doesn’t argue?). All of a sudden, a heavy vehicle rushed on to them and the girl dies. It is registered as an accident. It appears to us as an innocent accident where a random vehicle rushes on to two people arguing on the road. But that’s not obviously the case as this is part of the opening sequence of the movie. Means, there’s a greater significance to it than meets the eye.
In comes, Dr. Shiv Shankar Sharma played with majesty by Sachin Khedekar (in both highs and lows of the role). He’s the father of the earlier shown girl. The girl is Archana Sharma, a medico. He doesn’t believe that his daughter is that timid to embrace suicide just like any modern father with self-respect. He has strong clues as to what he says. When he is shunted out by the Circle Inspector who says it’s just a suicide and warns the doctor not to mess deep into the case, Dr. Sharma takes the help of a corrupt Sub Inspector. He pays the SI Rs. 2 lakhs.
As they move through the labyrinths of crime and mafia, several shocking truths behind the disappearance of several people comes out but our protagonists being ordinary men, their fight confines just to Justice for Archana. As the unlikely duo becomes pain in the a***S for the heads behind the crime, first the SI who enjoys bribes is pressured by the higher authorities to drop going deep into this case.
Next he’s suspended. It is then that he stands upright for justice and starts to take the matters into his weak hands. How and if they can complete their mission (Justice for Archana) forms the rest of the story.
Writing and direction
We have seen hundreds of thousands of the stories like this made into films over the history of cinema. But what separates this film from the recent such entries is the grounded narration. The film is richly detailed. It’s rustic. The protagonists are no heroes let alone superheroes like in our commercial cinemas. They have no capability to be antiheroes too. They are just plain people who try to fight a mighty system and almo.......st fail.
Their plight is comically tragic and tragically comic. They are just unheroes. But Dr. Sharma makes a strong impression on our minds. He’s the brains of the team. He finds one clue after another and almost closes in on the culprits. He’s relentless until the end in pushing their investigation forward. But... he’s just an ordinary man with no political or economic clout. The SI, Yusuf Qureshi (Barun Sobti) is the brawn. He’s not a heavyweight but an underweight champ who tries to punch above his weight to his own peril.
The narration starts off slowly but addictively. It takes you along a roller coaster ride which makes your guts twist and twirl with each revelation and the new defeats our unheroes suffer. The screenplay is neat. The director and writers followed the classic three-act structure and twirled it head on to give us a sucker punch of a climax.
The dialogues are casual for the most part and that added to the effect of profundity. The direction by Randeep Jha is understated and it has done a world of good to the film. The writing team of Gibran Noorani (screenplay) and Zeishan Quadri (dialogues and story) have come up with a riveting script which has a few dull moments but not enough to make us leave the film midway.
The music is atmospheric and suited the mood of the movie. Piyush Puty’s cinematography is right on the coin. The production design and production values are just about okay. The editing by Nitesh Bhatia is superb. Overall, Halahal is a decently made mystery thriller.
Halahal is a type of most powerful poison which can make ashes anything that comes into contact with it. The mafia behind the crimes is true Halahal. But unlike Lord Shiva who tamed it and imprisoned it in his throat to become Neelkant, our unheroes couldn’t move beyond knowing the truth. They had to bear with the fact that they couldn’t swallow the failure of their mission. But couldn’t do anything about it. Halahal just stays there. Nobody can do anything about it.
Watch the film on Eros Now. Movie was released on 21 September 2020. This reviewer thanks senior film critic Sikander for bringing this to the notice of this reviewer through his blog. An intriguing movie. Don’t miss it. For the fun of watching complete cinema.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5