wogma rating: The keen must watch on screen; else TV/online (?)
Works as the story of a little boy who doesn’t have access to a clean toilet, might seem heavy-handed if watched as a movie with an agenda.Read more
The director’s previous film, [Kadvi Hawa]https://wogma.com/movie/kadvi-hawa-review/ (“Kadvi Hawa”) was a heavy-handed take on the far-reaching impact of climate change. While I am all for movies that stand out in their treatment of characters and narration, I preferred his I am Kalam to the serious Kadvi Hawa. Fortunately, Halkaa seems to follow the former rather than the latter.
Of course, we have seen Akshay Kumar and Bhumi Pednekar tackle India’s “toilet” issue, but that had a gender angle to it which doesn’t seem relevant in Halkaa. And maybe, rightly so too. The number of peeing men I have to ignore on my evening walk is enough for me to accept that this is hardly a gender issue. That Nila has a child take it on makes me completely look forward to it.
Halkaa releases on 7 September, 2018.
- meeta, a part of the audience
A little, slum-dwelling boy is aspirational. He wants to build himself a toilet. “Is that asking for too much?”, is a hook that the writer relies heavily on. He then goes about answering the question with, “Looks like for Pichku, it is.” With this at its core, the film could have gone either way. It could have gone all preachy, satirical, bombarded us with guilt as it rubbed the sorriness of the situation in our faces. Or it could do all of that through a story to soften the blow. It goes with the second option and that works!
The climax is a bit of a put off. Thankfully, it is done with quickly enough for it not to get overwhelming.
To begin with Halkaa is not an in-the-face portrayal of the social divide. Of course, wealth inequality has a huge role to play in the film. But it is presented rather matter-of-factly and the film has no grand illusions that it is telling us something we don’t know about. Also, it does a little more than harp on just this one point. Some social equations cross wealth barriers. Like that of older people thinking they know better because they are older. Like that of cleanliness and hygiene being a concern only for people with means to keep their environment filth-free. Like that of people caring for each other beyond their circle of friends and family.
Sprinkled with dark toilet humor, Halkaa has sparks of good writing as it makes you cherish a moment of joy in the midst of in-the-face tokenism. Similarly, the protagonist, Pichku’s dad (Ranveer Shorey) is written with some understanding of a man who has limited means and aims. At the same time, the mom’s character (Paoli Dam) comes from a place of warmth.
The best of them all of course, is the lead character Pichku (Tathastu) himself. This little 8-10 year old who we can call anal at the risk of sounding uptight who is led by his olfactory senses. Many of these characteristics are not something we associate with people who live in slums. At least in our films. It takes some insight to be able to touch upon such an unexpected aspect of a character who is in a dire financial situation. Of course, Tatashthu himself awes by his performance. You want to be a part of his joy and his wishes fulfilled even if it is in a tacky dream sequence.
Unfortunately, some of this tackiness seeps through other places in the film. While you are willing to forgive the standard one good bureaucrat in the midst of all corrupt ones, because you would like to believe that it is possible, there are other places where you cannot be so accepting at other times. The exaggerated ridicule with zero empathisers that Pichku faces seems quite unreal and out-of-place in this otherwise believable setting. Then there is the caricaturish baba and the annoying music that is continuously leading you to feel one way or another. While the film keeps a safe distance from getting political, the repeating motif of Gandhiji’s statue/picture feels heavy-handed. And of course, the climax is a bit of a put off. Thankfully, it is done with quickly enough for it not to get overwhelming.
In that sense, Halkaa gets a fair amount of things right. For me, the best bit is that it was ultimately a story. That it might have a social angle to it, is germane to the story and its characters. This kept me engaged through the film, unreal situation aside. It was quite sad that I was the only one in the theater.
- meeta, a part of the audience
So-So, by Devesh Sharma, Filmfare : ...It’s hard to mix realism and fantasy and the film falters in achieving the right balance. The songs cut a discordant note and could have been avoided. But all said and done, director Nila Madhab Panda has made a film with its heart in the right place and let’s hope the message it conveys reaches the right pockets... full review
So-So, by Shalini. Nanger, indian express : ...This setting is again where Panda scores, bringing alive to us the slums we pass by every day, even if the suggestion of grime is fleeting. At the same time, this is where he cheats, by giving us a film about urban wretchedness in easily digestible drawing-room gollops — just the kind to show up as good SUPW on the report card of a child in one of the National Capital Region’s many “progressive schools”.... full review
Thumbs down, by Rahul Desai, Film Companion : ...This lack of self-awareness is a pitfall for most socially inclined tales. Slapping it over with a sanitized layer of textbook vision doubles the bleach and triples the preach. It doesn’t help that artificial characters occupy real locations – a mismatch that appears jarring when the gang breaks out into mandatory song-and-dance routines. Halkaa ends on a high, thanks largely to the manipulative dynamics of a Rajkumar-Hirani-ish payoff... full review
Thumbs down, by Johnson Thoumas, Free Press Journal : ...It’s really unfortunate that filmmakers of Nila Madhab Panda’s caliber have whittled down their craft in order to curry favour with an autocratic government!... full review
Thumbs down, by Kunal Guha, Mumbai Mirror : ...Director Nila Madhab Panda has made a career of drafting films (I am Kalam, Kadvi Hawa) which pack in a social message or three. If only these mass vehicles of public betterment could’ve been peppered with some cinematic flourish, they would’ve been a bit more bearable.... full review
Thumbs down, by Namrata Joshi, The Hindu : ...In all this there’s little concern for the underdog hero, despite the fact that Pichku (Tathastu), with his winsome smile, makes the proceedings bearable. Even as his father Ramesh (Ranvir Shorey) tries his best to be a believable rickshaw puller, mother (Shobha) Paoli Dam seems from another world, in her demeanour and body language.... full review
Thumbs down, by Renuka Vyavahare, Times of India : ...his otherwise tedious and futile film only seems interesting in scenes where Pichku is accompanied by his street-smart friend Gopi (Aryan Preet). The child actors are good and deserve a film that doesn’t make you unintentionally laugh at their characters’ plight... full review
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