Film review: Halkaa - A story about pooing in private

I don’t know about you, but every time I’m in a public loo with other people in neighbouring cubicles, no matter how desperate I am to do a ‘No.2’ it won’t budge. I have to wait until they turn off the taps and finally leave the room, before my bowels can finally relax and I can enjoy the sigh of relief…aaaah! See poos were made for doing in private, it’s human nature to feel this way and in agreement with me is the protagonist of Halkaa.

Life in the Mumbai slums is given a joyful spin in this vibrant and colourful children’s film about a boy, desperate for one thing in life; to poo in peace. Though his friends and family do the deed alfresco on the railway tracks, Pichku has standards: he is only prepared to relieve himself in private, and preferably, surrounded by pleasant fragrances. For anyone who fears discussing their bowel movements in public; this film will give you the confidence to get over it.

The movie screens at the Bagri Foundation London Indian Film Festival 2018 and continues their tradition for showing films for younger audiences. Halkaa also shares the same well-meaning mission of Akshay Kumar’s movie for the masses, Toilet Ek Prem Katha (2017), which was supported by the Clean India campaign to improve sanitation conditions in the country by eradicating open defecation. By handing the reigns of the message over to a child, it makes the situation even more startling – though the film never preaches; it’s a fun adventure, focusing on the positivity and tenacity of a character who against all odds, shows that anyone can change their destiny.

The appeal of the film lies in its positive representation of slum life, though our characters are living on the poverty line, they possess a strong community spirit while the aesthetics of their colourful homes are inspiring - (and gave me serious interior design envy.) There's also a great chemistry about Pichku's parent's played by Ravir Shorey and Paoli Dam, worthy of its own sequel - I'd love to have seen more screen time of their relationship. Pulling the film together is a gentle, dreamy soundtrack by Shankar Ehsan Loy which echoes the sounds and sentiments of the hit children’s film Taare Zameen Par, which they also composed the music for.

At times the story veers from reality, but in the grand scheme of this being a children’s film, it’s perfectly acceptable to encounter fairytale-like characters who end up being the unexpected heroes in the film such as a mystical murderer who lives in an abandoned warehouse and a worker at a ‘toilet shop’ who assists Pichku to put down a deposit on his dream commode.

With its warm and humorous agenda, Halkaa is a film that will amuse and entertain an adult audience while for a young viewer whose own life is far removed from Pichku’s, it will give them food for thought, providing an alternative to conventional children’s storytelling and a fresh way into world cinema for mini movie buffs.

Halkaa runs as part of the 9th edition of the Bagri Foundation London Indian Film Festival, that runs at 15 cinemas, across London, Birmingham and Manchester, from 21st June to 1st July, with 27 films, including features and short films, in competition. It is the largest South Asian film festival in Europe. Buy your tickets via this website, at respective cinema box offices: www.londonindianfilmfestival.co.uk

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