Cast: Sachin Khedekar, Barun Sobti
Director: Randeep Jha
Lately, Barun Sobti has impressed me with his range in projects like Tu Hai Mera Sunday, 22 Yards and Asur, and he continues his good work in director Randeep Jha’s Halahal, a murder mystery with a medical college scam at the centre.
Dr Shiv (Sachin Khedekar) is an obvious name for the protagonist in a film titled Halahal (poison), but to his credit, he has balanced both the absorber and destroyer act with finesse. He has done similar roles in the past but he has tried to add layers to the role of a helpless father set out to find the truth of his daughter’s death. However, the story finds its momentum only after a morally ambiguous cop Yusuf’s (Barun Sobti) entry.
It’s one of those thrillers where the writers put emphasis on bringing out the grey side of even the most sophisticated-looking characters. In a funny way, a character actually announces that the world revolves around money and not the sun, in case you don’t get enough hints by what’s happening on screen!
You know the kind of film where even the closest friends try to con each other. You’ll be immediately reminded of Anurag Kashyap’s Ugly, but that’s not a co-incidence because Jha was in the direction team of that film. Also, one of the writers—Zeishan Quadri—has worked with Kashyap in Gangs of Waaseypur. But what makes Jha a promising talent is that he has tried his best to not be very gimmicky in his storytelling and has stuck with a matter-of-fact tone.
This is where Barun Sobti comes handy as he hasn’t shown much affinity for theatrics. His calm demeanour, which made Asur such a lovely watch, has added dimensions to Halahal as well. His restrained body-language keeps the audience intrigued about his intentions and who wouldn’t want such a trait for a mystery thriller. In fact, his objective chemistry with Sachin Khedekar is the highlight of the film as the two rely on dialogues to reveal plot points at crucial junctures.
However, Halahal never gets as dark as I wanted it to be in order to attain more shock value. Gritty characters need enough time to unfold on screen, but Halahal simply touches and moves on at some really important narrative points.
Set in the Western Uttar Pradesh and the adjacent Haryana, Halahal has a sinister tone but it also has many parties involved and that stops the audience from focusing on the crime and its primary architects. Also, many transitions hamper the flow of the 96-minute film.
Minor flaws overlooked, Halahal is engaging for sure, and its lead talents are quite impressive. With careful project selection, the director can offer much more.