The Brotherhood

I am an NRI, translated into: no-real Indian. I follow Indian cinema in my quest to find only one million original films before humanity as we know it disappears. I will use the term Indian cinema sparingly because I only have access to Hindi films, not Bengali, Tamil, Telugu, Urdu, Marathi, Kannada, Gujarati and other languages.

The reason why I will drop Halla Bol written and directed by Rajkumar Santoshi, in my shopping cart for original stories is its different take on Mumbai, where most of the Hindi movies are made. Om Shanti Om gave us a glimpse of the industry’s dark side in the form of a producer (Arjun Rampal) who killed his own wife Shanti (Deepika Pudrone) in order to marry the daughter of someone who will advance his career in the industry.

Halla Bol is about how brotherhood or sisterhood is not about sharing common interests. It is all about erecting a fence to keep out outsiders in order to protect dark family secrets, sometimes of a criminal nature. Ashfaq (Ajay Devgan) belongs to a popular street theatre group run by Sidhu everyone calls Guru (Pankaj Kapoor).

It is popular because its drama is about corrupt politicians, India and the World Bank and indifference to human suffering like somebody being beaten to death in public and nobody has a seen a thing. It is street theatre. I’m not from the culture, so I don’t know what street theatre is called in India, but it used to be a popular story line in older films.

Ashfaq is so good, Guru speaks to someone in the film industry and Ashafaq becomes an actor. He marries Sneha (Vidya Balan) his childhood sweetheart. He becomes so big he changes his name to Sameer Khan. He likes his new brotherhood and does what some big stars do, keep the director waiting while he spends time in his trailer with young women who want to be film stars.

Sneha catches him one day and he pleads that it means nothing, everybody does it. “I come back to you every night,” he says. She moves to another room in their mansion and tells him that she is not leaving for the sake of their son.

Guru, from his old street theatre days comes back for a favour. A woman was raped and they want Ashfaq to join them in their cause to get justice for her. Guru is shocked that his disciple has turned into a selfish and arrogant person. Ashfaq’s father nearly dies when his son reminds him that his name is Sameer Khan and not Ashfaq.

One day, at a party full of film stars and religious people, Rashmi Sahini approaches Sameer Khan with her sister Ritu, who wants to be a star. Someone even takes them a photo with him. A few minutes later, two men try to force Rashmi to dance with them. She fends them off. Sameer goes to the loo and sees two men sniffing cocaine. They leave and Sameer admires himself in the mirror.

When he goes out, he sees Rashmi full of blood, clutching the glass wall and she dies. The two men who were sniffing cocaine calmly walk out of the party. They shot her in cold blood. They are sons of local prominent politicians. The media reports that nobody saw anything. Sameer Khan also did not see anything. When the police interrogate him about taking a photo with the dead girl Rashmi, he says he does that all the time because of his work.

This is a test for him. He must protect the brotherhood that made him a star, a brotherhood that gives him all the plum roles, when there are many good actors that can never see the light of day because of him.

His conscience needles him. He calls Ritu and gives her a suitcase of money, saying it will not bring back her sister but it will help her with her studies. Ritu rejects it. Guru, his old teacher hears about Rashmi Sahini and comes to visit Sameer Khan.

What is interesting about Halla Bol is that it is not the two murderers who fight Sameer Khan but their fathers, especially Gaikwad an M.P. of the ruling party, played to perfection by Darshan Jariwala.

Movies are fiction. They are also based on real life. I understand Halla Bol was inspired by Jessica Lal’s murder because she told a politician’s son that she was not serving drinks anymore because the bar was closed.

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