Two hundred masked women storm a courtroom in Nagpur, overpower the police escorting a gangster to a hearing, kill him and escape. If you can believe this, the rest of 200 – Halla Ho! will be a cinch.

Caste is added to a routine potboiler about righteous vengeance. The women are Dalit and from a slum that has been under the malevolent sway of the victim, Balli (Sahil Khattar). Balli has been sexually assaulting the women for a decade. Despite this crime taking place in Nagpur, Maharashtra’s winter capital, nobody has been any the wiser.

Balli’s murder leads to the formation of a fact-finding commission, headed by retired Dalit judge Dangle (Amol Palekar). Meanwhile, five women from the slum, including the elderly Tara (Sushama Deshpande), are arrested for the crime. The commission’s progress is slow, and is matched by the incompetence of human rights lawyer Umesh in obtaining bail for the women. Umesh (Barun Sobti) happens to be an old flame of Asha (Rinku Rajguru), an activist from the slum.

You don’t know what it is like to be a Dalit, Asha tells Umesh. But the film doesn’t shed any light on this. It only depicts Dalits as pathetic victims.

Sarthak Dasgupta’s vigilante drama for Zee5 is based on a story by Abhijeet Das and Soumyajit Roy. “Real events” have supposedly inspired the movie, although it appears that the plot was meant for a different setting – a rural area, perhaps, or a place facing severe restrictions on the media and other institutions of civil society.

Sluggishly paced and poorly argued, the movie does little for its stated cause: to highlight the oppression of Dalit women, and to reveal the manner in which this systemic violence evokes little interest except when it is expedient. The only reason anybody is interested in Balli’s slaying at all is because the police have been humiliated and an election is round the corner.

Even veterans such as Amol Palekar and Sushama Deshpande struggle to keep audience interest from flagging. Rinku Rajugru, Barun Sobti and Saloni Batra are among the actors who vainly try to steer their skiffs in a sea of preposterousness.

200 – Halla Ho! (2021).