200 Halla Ho review: A rattling film that takes you beyond the headlines about caste discrimination and crimes against women

    200 Halla Ho review: A rattling film that takes you beyond the headlines about caste discrimination and crimes against women

    4.0
    200 Halla Ho: A rattling but real film
    200 Halla Ho review: A rattling film that takes you beyond the headlines about caste discrimination and crimes against women
    Updated : August 20, 2021 04:36 PM IST

    200 Halla Ho by no means is an easy film to watch. More so, this Sarthak Dasgupta directorial is even harder to get out of your mind once you are through. The film has its root in a real-life incident from Nagpur dating back to 2004 where 200 women from a slum lynched a rapist in open court. Why this film weighs so heavily on the mind is because for the duration of its run time the movie transports you into a much harsher reality and takes you behind the headlines about rape and Dalit atrocities that might otherwise fail to rattle you.

    Balli Chaudhary played by Sahil Khattar, is a local gangster who runs his business outside a Nagpur slum predominantly occupied by the Dalit families. While he often rapes and molests the women there the police turn a blind eye to the matter. After a decade of enduring this harassment, 40 FIRs are filed against him in one day out of nowhere and he is arrested. While being presented in court he is lynched to death by 200 women with their faces covered who breach the courtroom doors. This is the point where the story of 200 Halla Ho takes off.

    The entire narrative of the film is based on a moral dilemma that the movie often presents to the viewer, vigilantism versus the legal system. While Sarthak Dasgupta’s film takes off enquiring the matter from a legal lens, Amol Palekar as a retired Dalit judge Vithaal Daangle is asked to head a Fact Finding Committee appointed by the Women’s Rights Commission to get to the crux of the matter. This happens after five women are arrested at random from the slum as accused in the murder of Balli by the police to try and find who the leader is among the 200 to close the case.

    The film pivots based on Daangle’s point of view, as Palekar is shown to be a judge who rose above the societal perception of his caste and earned respect in the legal profession. Rinku Rajguru plays a resident of the slum, Asha Daave who leads the protests against these arrests and eventually finds herself face to face with Daangle after being turned away by the police. Barun Sobti as a pro bono lawyer Umesh backs the case of these women in court trying to get them bailed out citing lack of evidence. There is a romantic history to Asha and Umesh's character but it's something that the film might still be the same without.

    The third and seemingly guilty party here are the police who try to get the case closed in a fortnight by convicting the women arrested and putting them under lifetime imprisonment to brush under the carpet their own incompetence.

    The gaze of the film gradually moves from being all legal and by the book to showing a mirror to the society that we live in where caste determines a person’s social standing and importance. 200 Halla Ho is hard-hitting because it neither sugar coats and neither does it attempt to hide or brush off the atrocities it talks about. As the story unravels, the film gets intentionally disturbing showing scenes like police brutality on the arrested women, the public rape and murder of a woman in front of her mother and child. These scenes are responsibly handled and go only so far as to make a point. What hits a nerve is that something like this actually came to pass in Nagpur for real while the law turned a blind eye.

    Powerful storytelling, cinematography and performances are the real strengths of this film. Sahil Khattar takes the cake by inciting pure hatred as Balli Chaudhary. Despite his disturbing character one wants to see more of his performance because he aces his act. Rinku Rajguru is flawless as Asha the activist who becomes more powerful and effective with every passing scene. Amol Palekar is a treat to watch as the impartial and later conflicted FFC head. His character binds the narrative and the actor reliably shoulders this position. Barun Sobti’s role is small but he makes the honest intentions of his character shine when he takes the screen. Indraneil Sengupta as a conflicted ACP craftily brings out the intentions of his character while Umesh Limaye as a corrupt cop backing Balli is hard to miss.

    The filmmaker keeps it real to the final moment where only Amol Palekar’s final courtroom speech feels a bit filmy but effective nonetheless. The cinematography and screenplay add to Sarthak Dasupta’s responsible direction which gives the final product all the ammunition it needs to create a rattling impact. The opening sequence of the film itself is a great example where without words the movement of the 200 was effortlessly communicated. Another beautiful thing about the project is that the story has been weaved in a manner where it is easy to decode from the point of view of any and all characters, big or small.

    200 Halla Ho is in no way offering a solution to the problems it highlights, it is simply telling a story. The film makes you weep, gasp in horror, and later keeps you thinking and rethinking about the world we live in and that is where its real victory lies.