BOTTOM LINE: Scent Of A Scam, With A Less Than Satisfying End
Rating: 2.25 /5
Skin N Swear: No skin show, a smattering of expletives
|Platform: ErosNow||Genre: Thriller|
What Is the Story About?
Eros Now‘s suspense and murder thriller film ‘Halahal’ centres on the death of a promising young medical student, Archana (Enab Kizra). The authorities and the Dean (Purnendu Bhattacharya) of her college, Ghaziabad Medical College, pass it off as suicide, but her father Dr Shiv Sharma (Sachin Khedekar) is not convinced. The police, of course, is clearly uncooperative as usual. Dr Shiv recruits a money-minded police officer Yousuf Quresh (Barun Sobti) to help him investigate his daughter’s death and find her classmate Ashish (Chetan Sharma) who has some incriminating evidence that will shed light on Archana’s death. As the duo digs deeper into the murky mayhem and diabolical dealings, they are shocked by the monumental scale of a shady scam and the people involved.
Barun Sobti is a natural in his part of a corrupt police officer. His Yousuf earns a fast buck by indulging in blackmail, bribes — and his favourite — busting clandestine sex meet-ups in hotel rooms. He gets the Haryanvi tone bang on – it suits him to the T. His moustachioed swashbuckling police officer is the highlight of Halahal, not to say, easy on the eyes.
Sachin Khedekar sinks his teeth into the meaty role he’s landed. He pulls off the grief-stricken father look to perfection – looking haggard here, godforsaken there yet determined, rest of the time; subdued with looming defeat in one scene, bristling with energetic motive in the next. It’s easily one of his best performances.
The rest of the cast, including Purnendu Bhattacharya and Manu Rishi Chadha, is average, essaying their bit parts with the required skill.
Halahal, translated as poison in English, must obviously refer to the poison of corruption that has taken root in our country like, well, ‘Halahal’. In Indian mythology, it was the poison that appeared during the churning of the ocean by the gods and demons – symbolic of the bad in the world. Here, it is the corruption prevalent in the medical admissions racket run in every corner of the country.
Several years ago, the Vyapam medical admissions scam hogged headlines with its outrageous scale, and the sinister events surrounding it — witnesses disappearing/committing suicide/dying accidental deaths.
Exact similar things take place in Halahal. Though we must say, the fictional account – that is, the movie – is infinitely tamer compared to the real Vyapam scam. Read about it, and you’ll be shocked by the number of witnesses that have disappeared over the years. Writers Gibran Noorani and Zeishan Quadri have obviously taken a leaf out of the real-life scam.
So it’s obvious that throughout the movie’s run time, in more scenes than one cares to count, you can hear newsreaders rattling off astonishing snippets of information related to the Vyapam scam in the background. Halahal portrays in clarifying detail how coaching classes, admission agents and people at the top of the ladder manipulate the lucrative medical admissions domain. Even as the stink begins to sink in, one character spells it out in vivid detail, for the benefit of those who still haven’t got it.
Halahal, though, doesn’t take the grave route to telling the scam story. The writers and the director Randeep Jha have bestowed it with a rare kind of quirky lightness that is engaging. Halahal is therefore interspersed with humorous breaks – whether it is Yousuf’s trademark line about the police; him being beaten up by goons when he goes to collect a bribe, and then having to hitch a ride home with ‘band baaja wallahs’; or the episode when Shiv and Yousuf escape being killed due to two petty carjackers. All of it lends a light-hearted credence to the narrative, helping you absorb the enormity of the murder and mayhem on screen in good cheer.
The unlikely pairing of Barun Sobti and Sachin Khedekar is a casting win for Halahal. Watch out for the moments when they engage in heart to heart chats, or hit upon unexpected breaks while draining cups of tea in comforting silence. The camaraderie between the two is delightful. The plot, though, has its share of loopholes, which rankle – quite a lot. The character arcs of both Shiv and Yousuf are well-fleshed out. Which is why, the end hurts. It also leaves you without a sense of closure – a feeling of incompleteness, so to say. It is, without a doubt, one of the most abrupt ends seen in recent times.
To come to the end, it is shocking as hell. The twist in the tale is actually the gravest part of the story – not the murders, not the scam, not the encounter deaths – the end is what is the most affecting. We’ll admit we never saw it coming. And the newspaper headline in the penultimate scene slams home the reality of this country – where money is God, corruption is religion and life is dirt cheap – the ‘Halahal’ of our times.
Music and Other Departments?
Piyush Puty’s cinematography is on point. The dusty Ghaziabad highways lend a distinct rustic touch to the narrative, the ruckus of the trucks and transport giving it an authentic tone.
The background music of Halahal is eclectic. It gives a noirish tenor to the movie, which is fun to experience
Sachin Khedekar and Barun Sobti’s performances
The quirky humour
The noir-ish narrative
Lack of gravitas
The abrupt end
Did I Enjoy It?
Will You Recommend It?
Halahal Review by Binged Bureau
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