Jimmy Shergill. College campus. Melodious music. Hmm. Think that this is another mushy romantic fare in the vein of the actor´s other movies like "Mere Yaar Ki Shaadi Hai" and "Dil Vil Pyar Vyar"? Think again. We would not blame you if you had thought that "Haasil" is just another routine family entertainer for the publicity of the film has been very low-key that hardly anybody had any idea what it is about.
Of course, it still stars Jimmy Shergill and is set on a college campus. But a college love story is only a background for the main plot, which is about dirty politics and the rivalry between two gangs. One gang is headed by a president of a students´ union, Gauri Shankar (Ashutosh Rana) and the other by Ranvijay Singh (Irfan Khan). Jimmy plays Aniruddha (Ani for short), a student who is besotted with Niharika (Hrishita Bhatt). One of Ani´s friends´ mother is attacked in the local bazaar. Enraged by this, the group of guys go to Ranvijay in the hope that he will help them enact revenge. He does and the ever-grateful Ani eventually becomes a permanent member of his gang. He is sucked into the dangerous world of college politics, which places heavy strain on his relationship with Niharika and his close friends and family.
That is the main gist of the story. To reveal anything more would be a crime as there are a couple of twists in the storyline. "Haasil" is a very gritty film that has hard-hitting violence and realism in spades (blended nicely with a little Bollywood masala).
The development of the Ani-Niharika romance is a sheer delight to watch. There is none of the annoying boy-meets-girl, have-a-lot-of-supposedly-comic-fights, cause-a-lot-of-misunderstandings, waghaira waghaira (as can be found in "Khushi" and "Ishq Vishk"). For once, here is a young couple who are immensely likeable. They are not selfish spoilt brats; they care deeply for each other. At first, they communicate through letters after meeting each other during a drama class. Their interactions are sweet and humourous. At one stage, Ani sprays his letter with some kind of scent to impress Niharika but when she opens the letter she has a coughing fit. Another cute aspect is the fact that Niharika wears a burkha to their secret meetings so that nobody will recognise her. Their first argument comes when they meet in the abandoned cinema. They sit several rows apart emphasising the threat of a growing distance from each other. Later in the scene, Niharika sits next to Ani to console him. How easily they paper over the cracks in their relationship by making up with each other so quickly. Aww. Sigh.
Ani´s growing distance from his father (played by Tinnu Anand) shows the generation gap between young students and parents. When his father tries to buy two shirts (with the same design) for both of them in a shop, Ani refuses citing that a father and son cannot wear the same clothes as they would look ridiculous. Ani´s grandfather provides a little light relief with his observations on the father-son relationship. Don´t be fooled into thinking that "Haasil" is a film full of light moments (like you would expect from a typical Jimmy Shergill movie) though there is some natural humour in the dialogues. It is a very bleak film with an unrelenting dark mood. Therefore, comparisons can be made to other great films in the genre such as "Company" and "Satya"... films that have gripping narratives and keep you hooked.
Jimmy gets a chance to act for a change instead of carrying out SRK impressions and boy does he relish the opportunity! He plays his role with great understatement and with a natural and likeable charm. Hrishita also brings her role alive with her magnetism. She does not have much to do but at least it is not your run-of-the-mill brain-dead heroine role. Tinnu´s acting as the worried and confused father is very good. Irfan Khan is excellent as the mysterious but brutal gang leader. This is easily his best performance since his astonishing effort in Asif Kapadia´s "The Warrior". If his average performances in "Gunaah" and "Dhund-The Fog" had you worried, then "Haasil" should dispel any doubts. Watch out for his expressions in the climax where he expresses his character´s shattered emotions of hurt and betrayal. Ashutosh Rana leaves a big impact in his short role. He does not come in the second half of the movie and his absence is sorely felt.
Tigmanshu Dhulia directs the film with great skill. It is admirable the way he handles the scenes of violence. They make you sit up and take notice. Whether it is a sack of grain spilling onto a dead man or holes being made in a tent (signifying the shooting of bullets), he brings these scenes alive imaginatively. The background score deserves a special mention especially in the Kumbh mela climax where it provides a nail-biting ambience. The actual songs are well placed (except for a qawalli which hinders the progress of the plot) and all are melodious.
It’s a shame that a film like “Haasil” is being ignored for the most part. Hopefully, this admirable film will be discovered by people through word-of-mouth and reviews, if not through the non-existent publicity.