What the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) offers this year

‘Hellaro’ movie review: Of song and dance leading to flight and freedom

‘Hellaro’: Of dancing queens

‘Hellaro’: Of dancing queens  

The winner of the Best Feature Film at the 66th National Film Awards questions patriarchy while celebrating the colours and culture of Gujarat

There has been a lot of talk about Abhishek Shah’s debut Gujarati feature film, Hellaro, that could well be a successor to Ketan Mehta’s 1987 classic Mirch Masala. However, several of its scenes took me back to the iconic moment in Dev Anand’s Guide when Waheeda Rehman breaks the pitcher and dances with abandon to the song “Aaj phir jeene ki tamanna hai”. Hellaro is also about song and dance becoming women’s route to flight and freedom.

The winner of the Best Feature Film at the 66th National Film Awards and the opening film at the 50th International Film Festival of India (IFFI) Hellaro is also India’s entry, along with Uyare, in the best debut film award category at the festival. Based on a folklore, it is set in a remote village in Kutchch in 1975. A reference to Indira Gandhi and Emergency and the shorts-wearing Dimple “Bobby” Kapadia set the time frame.

Hellaro (Gujarati)
  • Director: Abhishek Shah
  • Starring: Jayesh More, Shraddha Dangar, Brinda Trivedi Nayak, Shachi Joshi, Neelam Panchal, Tejal Panchasara, Kausambi Bhatt
  • Run time: 121 minutes
  • Storyline: A group of oppressed women in a Kutchh village find release and liberation in the traditional garba dance

It is no village for women, dominated as it is by men. While the presiding deity of the village is a devi, women here are forced to remain confined within the four walls of their homes, more so in the kitchen. Even the garba dance is a privilege of the men. The only “outing” for women is to the faraway pond to fetch water for the whole household, in a region has been facing drought for three years. They don’t belong to a city or a village but to their respective husbands, they can’t earn money by putting their talent like embroidery to good use; and if they are seen doing so they are denied the right to practice their own skill.

Unlike the pro-active and rebellious women in Mirch Masala, who overthrow patriarchy with just chilli and spices for weapons, the women in Hellaro are not all wholly radical. It takes a while for some of them to liberate themselves of their conditioning. So they treat a widow like a pariah, realising only with time that they all are victims of the same rabid and violent male entitlement. They get guilt stricken, wondering if the misfortunes and deaths in their family have to do with their own so-called “trespasses” and the little moments of joy by the pond. They eventually get justice not just through their own agency and power of resistance, but some divine intervention to boot.

Shah has an accomplished ensemble of actors and skilled technical team to fall back on. The meticulously-designed and fabulously-mounted film, while questioning patriarchy, is also a celebration of the lush colours and culture of Gujarat. There are the gorgeous earthy shades, the rich Gurjari-like garments, the hypnotically choreographed shots of women walking the distance to fetch water, the placement of their matkas in one corner of the frame as their garba fills up the rest of it. The fetching packaging of the arid desert landscape can easily coax you to go visiting the next round of holidays. I am planning for sure.

Why you should pay for quality journalism - Click to know more

This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Feb 21, 2020 2:20:25 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/movies/hellaro-movie-review-of-song-and-dance-leading-to-flight-and-freedom/article29951712.ece

Next Story