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What the ongoing IFFK 2019 offers this year for film buffs

'Hellaro': Dancing their way to freedom

A group of women break free from shackles in the National award-winning film that was screened at IFFK 2019

December 09, 2019 12:27 am | Updated December 12, 2019 02:03 pm IST - THIRUVANANTHAPURAM

The 13 women who played the protagonists in Hallero bagged the Special Jury award at the national film awards.

The 13 women who played the protagonists in Hallero bagged the Special Jury award at the national film awards.

A much-awaited movie at this year’s IFFK is the national-award-winning Hellaro that ran to a packed house on Sunday when it was screened in the Indian Cinema Now section. Set in the arid Rann of Kutch, it portrays the urge of an unfettered mind to break free from social shackles — in this case, treacherous patriarchy. And what helps to set the free spirit soar is the flowing movements of the body tuned to the beats of an ebullient drum in a dance genre that Gujarat has always been proud of — garba.

The movie has won many hearts since its release in November this year. The biggest applause came as the National Award for the Best Feature Film and Special Jury award for the 13 women who play the protagonists living in a nondescript village in Kutch where the norm is that women cannot dance or express their talents in any way. All they are allowed is to walk miles through dry patches to fetch water.

But their chance meeting with a drummer gives them the spark to express their rebellion and their freedom through dance — something only men are allowed to do in the village. The bond between the women in Hellaro reminds us of Ketan Mehta’s Mirch Masala where women fight gender bias with spices they prepare for a living.

Laced with folklore

The movie is Abhishek Shah’s first. It competed at the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) in the best debut film category and even opened the festival. Mr. Shah, who took to theatre when young, got the idea of the movie from real incidents when he felt that freedom of expression, among women especially, remained subdued. He then read it along with a Kutchi folkore in which women get attracted to a drummer who helps them dance in gay abandon.

“When he narrated the story to us, we were excited. Everything fell in place from then with veterans like Saumya Joshi helping with the script, lyrics, and dialogue and Sameer Tanna choreographing the beautiful garba dances that fill the frames with a fiery grace. The real hero of the film is garba,” says Aayush Patel, one of the producers. He and another from the producer team, Mit Jani, are attending the IFFK.

Even while portraying the dark world of ruthless conventions, the film celebrates the rustic, earthy flavours of Kutch, the richness of its dialect, and the delicate imprints of art that is part of the region’s everyday life.

Hellaro in Gujarati means an outburst that gives rise to a wave of change. The film has done exactly that, coming in as a wave of change in Gujarati cinema.

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