200 Halla Ho
Cast: Amol Palekar, Rinku Rajguru, Barun Sobti, Sahil Khattar
Director: Sarthak Dasgupta
Streaming Platform: ZEE5
200 Halla Ho Rating: 3/5
Director Sarthak Dasgupta and team have brought to life the spine-chilling 2005 incident when 200 women stormed the Nagpur district court and killed the rape accused Akku Yadav. It has been more than a decade since the event took place and Dasgupta’s 200 Halla Ho takes us back in time and into the lives of these underprivileged women who fought for justice. Starring veteran actor Amol Palekar, Rinku Rajguru, Barun Sobti and Sahil Khattar, this film marks Palekar’s comeback who has stayed away from the camera since 2009.
The film is based on the true incident that took place in Nagpur and Sarthak Dasgupta begins the narrative by putting us into the thick of it as a large group of women storm the court premises with their faces fully covered. What unfolds in the next 10 minutes is a grim crime scene on the courtroom floor that is covered in chilli powder and chopped off body parts lying around. How did it get so ugly, so fast?
The Dalit women, who are suffering years of rape, harassment, eve-teasing and molestation at the hands of local goon Balli Choudhary (Sahil Khattar), witness a change when Asha Surve (Rinku Rajguri) stands up to the group of perverts. However, as a viewer, you are left wondering what exactly has gone down as the director only shares glimpses of the shocking and cold-blooded murder that has taken place inside the court.
We are then introduced to several members associated with the case. From the cops to the 200 women, who were brave enough to put their lives on the line, the director explores different aspects, but it is the caste factor that single-handedly stands out in the case.
In the film’s first half, the director and writers use elements like the red chilli powder, sharp objects and the general treatment of Dalit women to chalk out and highlight caste-based atrocities and the chilling murder. Amol Palekar as retired judge Dangle refuses to let his caste (Dalit) ever come into the picture because he believes in justice and the power of the Indian constitution. However, he is forced to confront his caste and bring it to the forefront, when he dives deep into the case and hears first hand the heartbreaking stories of sexual violence against the Dalit women.
200 Halla Ho is a promising courtroom drama but falls tad short of being totally riveting due to the slow screenplay. The film only picks up pace in the second half and becomes gripping when retired judge Dangle takes over the case. The actual cold-blooded murder is also shown only in the film’s second half, making it difficult to connect with what has actually transpired the arrests of five random women.
Director Dasgupta and his team also choose to blur out the murderer’s face or not show it at all whenever the screenplay cuts back to the crime scene. Maybe if the murdered accused (Balli Choudhary played by Sahil Khattar) had a face in the film’s first half or was shown in a battered state, it would’ve kept things interesting in an otherwise slow first half. The film’s measured pace makes you wait it out with the screenplay picking up only in the second half.
Several regional films in the past have been based on caste atrocities. However, very few Hindi films in recent years address let alone tackle this issue with the kind of treatment it needs. With gory and goosebump-worthy details from a real life incident, director Sarthak Dasgupta manages to treat 200 Halla Ho well but fails to keep it gripping enough.
Amol Palekar, as always, does complete justice to his character and brings out the best in his co-actors. Rinku Rajguru dishes out an excellent performance and stands tall despite the presence of heavyweights. Saloni Batra, who starred in Soni, is another stand out as a fierce journalist, Upendra Limaye as a corrupt cop, Barun Saboti as an advocate and Sahil Khattar as rapist Balli Choudhary are also great additions to a solid supporting cast.
Marathi films such as Sairat and Fandry are great examples of caste as a central theme, Sarthak Dasgupta’s 200 Halla Ho touches the surface and digs deep but a crisper finish could’ve taken it to the next level.