I absolutely love and respect such masterpieces that compell you to write about them. You leave the theatre but the masterpiece doesn’t leave you. You feel alive, you take away a piece of it and tuck it inside you forever. Last one I wrote was Padmavati! And now writing about this one.
I had an immense pleasure of watching this gem of a movie Hellaro last night, here in New Zealand with my extended family of Gujarati Sahitya Mandal New Zealand; a literary, arts and cultural organisation that I am proud to be a part of! And the icing on the cake was we had an absolute privilege of watching Hellaro along with one of the Actors from the movie Mr. Shailesh Prajapati, who plays a pivotal character of Mukhi (Head of the tribe) who also happens to be the ‘Mukhi’ of our organisation in real life. After the movie we had a great chat and that gave me an insight on behind the scenes, movie making and where the movie comes from which has helped me write this review in a great way! So, Thank you Shaileshji for sharing your experience with us and many Congratulations to you & the whole Hellaro team for such a roaring success!
So someone asked me what Hellaro exactly means! Well, I couldn’t come up with an exact translation as it’s a rich Gujarati word full of expression and less of meaning but more or less it means ‘an outburst’! It is a film set in times around 1975. It is a story about an outburst of a woman called Manjri, along with an ensemble of 12 women, who badly wanted to express theirselves through Garba (a Gujarati Folk Dance) which they are forbidden to and thus breakthrough the demeaning and suppressing patriarchy they have been shackled by since ages. Their only hope is Mulji the Dholi/Drummer who (along with his own heart-wrenching back story) sympathies with them and plays Dhol for them so they can discreetly enjoy Garba. But were they able to live their dreams?
Well, without revealing the plot much let’s get to the point and let me tell you those 5 reasons to place Hellaro onto your ‘Must Watch’ list!
- Women Centric Wonder
Hellaro is an ode to these 12 Women and to every other woman who desire to be happy rather than just exist. While Feminism is an omni-present theme of the movie, it frequently projects the hypocrisy of how male characters mistreat and look down on women in their lives and on the other hand worship and bow down to the Goddess Amba. Almost every single dialogue written by Mr. Saumya Joshi for these women characters is fuelled with Feminism. The crux of the film is when Manjri tells Mulji, “We feel alive for the few moments we dance to the beats of your dhol. Now that we have just started living, we won’t stop for the fear of dying.”
Every single Actress embodies the theme of the movie. Feels like they’d very easily express theirselves through their eyes even if there weren’t any dialogues. Especially the leading lady Manjri played by Ms. Shraddha Dangar who I was unable to take my eyes off throughout the movie. No wonder each of these 12 Actresses and the little lady who played Sita received a Special Jury Award for their stellar performances at the 66th National Film Awards.
2 Made for Passionate People
While one can totally sense that Hellaro is made out of sheer passion; it requires you as an audience to be passionate about something as well. And if not, it ignites or reignites that fire, that desire in you. In my case, Hellaro hit me hard enough as I am both a Feminist and an ardent Garba lover. For these 12 women in the movie, Garba isn’t a mere dance form; it’s passion, it insinuates their freedom, their very being. After watching how these women braved their fears that interrupted with their passion and desire; I am sure you will feel alive too! As one of the women in the movie says, “I would give away my whole empire for garba, it’s just that I don’t have one.”
3 Movie is a PERFECTION
Hellaro is a ‘Complete’ movie. From the
length of the movie to the barren lands of Cinematography, from deep-stirring dialogues and songs/Garbas to mirroring Music, from authentic costumes to the charismatic choreography every little thing screamed PERFECTION! Nothing felt unnecessary or dragging. Even the smallest character, shortest dialogue has it’s own prowess. In fact I’d like to go ahead and congratulate and the Actors that all the characters feel so real. Of course to top the list (in Male Actors) is Mr. Jayesh More for his magnificent performance as Mulji (The Dholi/Drummer) I doubt that anyone from Gujarati Film fraternity would’ve done justice to Mulji as Mr. More did. Next one who astonished us the audience with his character is our own Mr. Shailesh Prajapati who played Mukhi. Loved the way he exhibited the balancing act of being the considerate, heavy-headed leader of the town and the simple guy who naively lets Bhaglo(one and only comic relief of the movie excellently played by Mr. Maulik Nayak) take over him with his humour. It might surprise you but there is even perfect amount of comic relief at the right places throughout this poignant movie. You will get this Perfection point right after watching the movie and probably will thank Mr. Abhishek Shah for creating such a gem of a movie. Although the only not so perfect factor for me was Actor Mr. Aarjav Trivedi who plays Arjan. Again, this is my personal point of view and you will only get it if you have watched him in Chello Divas. It was very hard for me to accept Aarjav in this somber character after having watched him serving humour in Chello Divas. Well, it’s my limitation as an audience but he has done an impeccable job playing a haughty, heartless patriarch as an Actor.
4 Social Synthesis
Hellaro very effortlessly synthesises it’s social responsibility and artistic catharsis. While women suppression remains the main theme of the movie it addresses numerous social issues like misogyny/patriarchy, marital rape, domestic violence, and PTSD, some very superficially and some quite often occurring. It makes you feel the pain of the bruises the women get in return from their husbands when all they asked for a little ‘me time’. I snorted and disgusted at the sexist jokes of the male-characters and I felt cathartically liberated when they finally performed Garba in front of everyone. All in all, Hellaro is a thought provoking movie that leaves you with so many what ifs! E.g. What if I was born in that era, in that particular town?
Yes, if you love Garba like me, you will go ga ga over Hellaro! As Mr. Shailesh Prajapati told me during our after-movie chat, “ Garba is not mere dance form in this movie, it’s rather an integral character of the movie” which I absolutely agree with. First ever in the history of Gujarati Cinema Garba is used to represent women liberation and subversion of patriarchy.
The beauty and severity of Garba is projected magically by the Music Director Mr. Mehul Surti. Each song reflects a relevant situation at various points in the story. And the whole experience elevates and enhances through choreography when you watch those 12 women uncaged, unplugged, enjoying Garba bare feet on the barren earth of Kutch in the scorching heat.
Now we know why Hellaro won the National Film Award for Best Feature Film at the 66th National Film Awards. It was officially selected as the opening film at Indian Panorama, at 50th International Film Festival of India.
I hope this review will drag you to the theatres near you, especially ladies! Go, have some ‘me time’!