HULLA (2008)

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Directed by : Jaideep Varma
Story by : Jaideep Varma
Starring : Rajat Kapoor, Sushant Singh, Kartika Rane, Vrajesh Hirjee
Release Date : 19/9/2008

If someone told me that there could be a movie about a man who has trouble sleeping in his building because of the watchman blowing a wistle too loud and what he goes through to get some sleep, I would have laughed off the idea. It would have not only sounded boring but also too meager to be fleshed out into a full blown feature film. That was until I read about Hulla in Avijit Ghosh’s 40 Retakes (one of the best books on forgotten gems from Bollywood) and gave it a try. This was an intriguing, racy and genuinely funny film that broke my heart in more ways than one in the end. Keeping aside everything that this film did right, I believe this was one of the most intelligent and well written scripts that I have come across in a very long time.

Raj Puri (Sushant Singh) moves into a flat with his love Abha (Kartika Rane) in the Mumbai suburbs. Raj is an aggressive stock broker while Abha is a marketing professional. Moving into the new house, their already prosperous life seems to have hit an all time high. But things change drastically. Raj, who is apparently a light sleeper, cannot ignore the sounds of whistle and stick that the security guard, Matthew (Chandrachoor Karnik) of the building makes throughout the night. He does so on the behest of the Secretary of the building who believes that it is an important gesture to show the thieves and other antisocial elements that the building is well protected and its guard is awake.

This disturbs Raj to the extent that he is unable to sleep for days. When he approaches the building’s secretary Janardan (Rajat Kapoor) about the matter, he meets a gentle refusal. As days pass, Raj gets into a serious tussle with Janardan over the same matter who now takes the matter as a prestige issue and is hell-bent to push back Raj’s every effort to stop the whistling. A time comes when Raj gets obsessed by the events and even a gentle thud swings him into action. It starts taking a toll on his personal and professional life. The rest of the film is about how the three individuals —- Raj, Janardan and Matthew —- shape up in each other’s company.

I loved Hulla for a  variety of reasons and one of the biggest of them all is its ability to make us sit through the film without ever noticing that what we are seeing is nothing more than a series of passable and unimportant events in the life of a man which is to a great extent overreacting to his situations. I mean who cares whether someone is disturbed by a whistle or not. We have all been through similar ordeals in a building but never cared to look at it with the kind of thought and heart that director Jaideep Varma does. Not only that, he is successful in presenting the whole ordeal in an exceptionally entertaining manner which never for a second gets repetitive or lets our attention slip.

The director is also able to give us an insight into the lives of both Raj and Janardan and in doing that he makes us take sides with the characters. Janardan suffers through the day with problems that we are all too familiar with. He doesn’t win with his clients. He has to face the world and bow to it from time to time. He even has to do things that he despises. But when the question is of his tussle with Raj, he always wins. It’s the one redeeming factor in his life and he takes great pleasure in enjoying these moments of hard-earned victory. Rajat Kapoor who is an astounding actor does exceedingly well to bring out this trait of the man and he does so with such finesse and vitality that people will be enthralled by his act.

Raj on the other hand is successful. He is in control of his own life. He earns well and knows his way around people. But when the question comes to his building and the secretary, he loses every night. Let alone the secretary, he can’t even win with the security guard Mathew, who has a rebuttal ready for his every request. As time passes and the lack of sleep takes its toll on him one can clearly see the change that is coming about in his personality, his love life and his overall existence. Sushant Singh wonderfully grasps the essence of the characters and presents it for the viewers who get a peek into the life of this somewhat unusual.

The film is laced with many quirky scenes and characters. The neighbors of Raj played by a plethora of actors of all shapes and sizes are wonderfully envisioned. Be it the guy who has a habit of cracking a joke at everything (Balaji Deshpande), the man who time and again comes to Raj’s house and asks for the bedroom (Shailesh Pitambare), or the evident Goan (Dibyendu Bhattacharya) who places a set of super loud speakers in close vicinity of Raj’s house are all comically rendered. My favorite of the lot was the security guard Matthew. He has one answer to all questions “Mai bohat garib aadmi hoon sir, 67 years old” (I am a poor man sir, 67 years old). The kind of humanity and ironic comedy that Chandrachoor Karnik brings to the character is beautiful and heartwarming. My mother who was watching the film with me at home was crestfallen to see what happens to the man in the end. As a matter of fact, I was too. Such is the power of his act. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that the 3 protagonists of the film namely, Raj, Janardan and Matthew all meet tragic ends.

Hulla is a terrific film in every sense of the term. It’s a tragedy that a film like this was not watched by people and it practically went unnoticed. There may be those who might point out that this isn’t the kind of film that demands a theatrical treatment as it is primarily about having a camera in the household of a few families. I dare say that I would upto some extent agree to that but if that was the case then films like Salam Bombay, Satya, Company, Ardh Satya and many others from the parallel cinema wouldn’t merit it either. Having said all that, I believe that with the onset of digital platforms and wide sharing of films on websites such as YouTube (where I watched Hulla), Jio Cinema, Netflix etc this film should find a new and dedicated audience after all.

It is the kind of film that should be watched and re-watched not only for its charm, intrigue, subject and wonderful performances but also for the audacity and belief that Jaideep Varma showed in a subject that would otherwise be ignored by most.

Rating ; 4/5 (4 out of 5 Stars)   




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