What exactly are films? Why do you watch them? Is it in search of entertainment, or to find something meaningful? Or to dive into a world altogether unknown to you?
In the myriad cinemas that have been made for the human race so far; we always encounter a film or two sometimes, that which makes us constantly think about it, a film about which we talk, write or discuss for days on end.
The cinematic moments in films like these, that have carved out a special place for themselves among our many favorites are nothing but magical, wherein each frame is a mixture of poetry and art. Hellaro is a film that fits this definition. Written and Directed by debutante director Abhishek Shah, this 2019 Gujrati Film became the first film from the state to win the coveted National Film Award for Best Feature. It is nothing short of a masterpiece, and we’ll tell you why.
Hellaro (The Outcry) is based in a drought-ridden village at Kutch. The film opens in the middle of nowhere, showing us how the patriarchal society has blamed a three-year-old drought on its women, having stripped them of their freedom as they are only allowed to fetch water from a nearby lake. The village is also unmarred by law and order, as they claim that no one comes to that place. The lives of women change with the introduction of the protagonist Majihiri, who believes that women should live their own life irrespective of their age and marital status. Her initial struggle for freedom is rejected both by the men and the women of the society alike. As her husband tells her to cut her wings and horns because it will hurt more if he’d take charge of her; her resolves only goes stronger by the day.
The narrative of the film takes a turn when the women meet a stranger, a mysterious dhol player. Both women and the dhol player find solace as well as freedom through their mutual love for music and Garba. The rest of the film follows their collective journey as it concludes brilliantly in its haunting climax.
For me, the biggest asset of the film other than its strong narrative, is its cinematography. Cinematographer Tribhuvan Sadineni skilfully captures the many landscapes of the Kutch, crafting each and every shot with a unique finesse. The use of crane shots along-with wide-angle shots adds depth and richness to the scenes. In particular, the powerful Garba scenes where emotions like anger, happiness and sorrow plays together in the unique dance form. If one were to point out, the scene wherein the widow is finally allowed to leave home after being locked for more than a year is shot evocatively. It is scenes like this that make us connect to their struggle for emancipation.
On the performative front, Shraddha Dangar shines as film’s protagonist Manjhri. She is supported by a brilliant ensemble cast. A role that surprised me was Maulik Nayak’s portrayal of Bhaglo, a goofy character whose impact changes the film, as he’s the only man from the village who holds compassion for ladies. It is not just a well-etched, but also a well rendered role.
The music of the film is done by Mehul Surti, and it rhymes well with the sequences as it is a combination of both meaningful words and heavy emotion. Each song narrates different sentiments and shows the strong side of the Gujrati Folk Music. Besides, the film has its share of comical moments, which don’t seem forced or out of the box. Both the editor and the director made sure that the film doesn’t look like an unsolved Rubik’s cube.
More than a film, Hellaro is an emotion. We seldom see a film which garners an almost universal reaction involving silence and amazement simultaneously; owing to its sheer magnificence. It is a story of women who are deprived of their freedom, by the men who ironically are devout followers of Goddesses. It’s a tale of thousands of ladies who fight against the patriarchy, it’s a story of freedom, a story of struggle and most importantly it’s a story of music and dance. It has a perfect blend of music, cinematography, costumes and performances which makes it a must-watch, which sadly went overlooked by audience all over India. Now it’s time we give it its due.
Now Playing for Free : MX Player