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Movie Review: Halal


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Halal Review

Cast: Priyadarshan Jadhav, Chinmay Mandlekar, Pritam Kagne, Vijay Chavan, Vimal Mhatre

Director: Shivaji Lotan Patil

Quick Take: 
A sensitvely made film about a relevant topic

Rating:
3stars

Halala refers to the custom where a divorced woman can only remarry her husband if she get married to another man in the interim and he in term divorces her. BR Chopra's Hindi film Nikaah (1982) revolved around the same subject and now, years later, Shivaji Lotan Patil has made a Muslim social in Marathi about it. The difference between the two films is the treatment. Nikaah had Bollywood regulars like Raj Babbar, Deepak Parashar and Pakistani beauty Salma Agha essaying the roles. The drama was set in the upper-middle class society and played out much like a typical commercial film. Here, the film is set in a rural milieu, among people who are just a rung above being absolutely poor. Their problems, their belief in the customs come across as achingly real.

Halim (Pritam Kagne) and Kuddus (Priyadarshan Jadhav) are a young Muslim couple living in a no name village in backwater Maharashtra. Halim and her mother-in-law don't get along at all and fed up by the constant mistreatment meted out to his wife by his mother, Kuddus gives her triple talaq and sends her back to her parents'. Two years later, with his mother's passing, he wants to settle down with her again. The only deterrent is that according to Muslim customs, the wife has to undergo a 'halala'. She has to get married to another person and only after getting a divorce can she remarry her former husband. No one is found willing enough to marry a woman just for three months. Hence, the villagers coax the maulana (Chinmay Mandlekar) to do the honours. The twist is that smitten by the religious teacher's pious ways and exemplary attitude, Halim falls in love with him and doesn't want to go back to her former husband...

The film could have been reduced to a massive melodrama but for the nuanced performances by all concerned. Pritam and Priyadarshan make for a fine couple, trying to make some sense out of their dysfunctional lives. Priyadarshan suitably underplays his role as a husband who knows he was wrong to divorce his wife in the first place and is willing to go to any length to get her back. Pritam too is fine as a girl who, deprived of sexual attention for so long, develops a fondness and later genuine affection for her temporary husband. She starts believing that there is more to her than being a victim and these changes are subtly brought out through her performance. Chinmay Mandlekar, as the unlikely third angle of this triangle, too makes sure we don't see him as a villain. Mention must also be made of veteran actor Vijay Chavan, who has done comedy all his life and yet here is brilliant in a straight dramatic role as Halim's caring, out-of-work father who knows he's out of his depth and can't really get justice for his daughter.

The villagers, who keep gossiping about the situation look like they belong to that place. Camerawork and art direction are excellent and so it the editing. The only thing that's slightly out of place is the fact that the maulvi only speaks Hindi while the rest of the cast speaks grassroots Marathi. Progressive Muslims are raising their voices both against the practice of triple talaq and halala and the judiciary just passed a verdict against triple talaq. So the film, which is an attempt to educate how such practices actually affect the man on the street, has come at a right time indeed...

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