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Monday, July 26, 2021

Revisiting Haasil: Tigmanshu Dhulia’s first film that put Irrfan Khan on the map 

On Tigmanshu Dhulia's birthday, revisiting his 2003 film Haasil that brought widespread acclaim to Irrfan Khan. The film is still remembered for its portrayal of student politics.

Written by Sampada Sharma | New Delhi |
Updated: July 4, 2021 8:56:57 am
haasil irrfan khanTigmanshu Dhulia's Haasil starred Irrfan and Jimmy Sheirgill in lead roles. (Photo: Express Archives)

When Haasil released in 2003, it wasn’t the film that followed the traditional Bollywood route of narrating the story of star-crossed lovers. Of course, there was a love story, and a villain whose sole aim was to create a wedge between the hero and heroine but the route it took to narrate that classic boy-meets-girl love story was a rather unconventional one. Haasil was the first film of director Tigmanshu Dhulia, and also his first collaboration with Irrfan Khan, whom he would also direct in Paan Singh Tomar and Sahib Biwi Aur Gangster.

In 2003, Bollywood was still abiding by its traditional rules with films like Kal Ho Naa Ho and Chalte Chalte but there were sparks of experimentation that were starting to create a buzz amongst the audience. Gangaajal, Darna Mana Hai, Jhankaar Beats, Pinjar created a niche following for themselves at the time and are still remembered. And films like Munnabhai MBBS and Koi Mil Gaya, which were unique in their genres, amassed a huge following and delivered at the box office. Amid this variety of films, Haasil made a mark for its impressive performances by Irrfan Khan and Ashutosh Rana, and its portrayal of student politics in the interiors of Uttar Pradesh.

haasil irrfan khan Irrfan played Rannvijay Singh in Haasil.

Haasil follows two opposing groups of student leaders, played by Ashutosh and Irrfan, who talk with their guns and aim to rule the student population with violence, and politics. When Jimmy Sheirgill’s Anni meets Irrfan’s Rannvijay, he considers him to be his elder brother but does not realise that the conniving student leader has other intentions.

Haasil’s first half was its strength. It completely shifted how we had seen student politics in cinema and tried to bring out the casteist culture that is deeply embedded in India. It is also interesting to note that 18 years later, Dhulia starrer Tandav also relies heavily on the same theme as Haasil, albeit in a different era.

Irrfan’s Rannvijay blows up hand-made bombs right from the start but it isn’t until the second half that you start seeing him as the villain. Jimmy’s doe-eyed Anni is completely enchanted by the power that Rannvijay holds over every bit of that town and it completely overwhelms him. Rannvijay, meanwhile, is the wolf who takes advantage of such lambs so he can ride on their shoulders and create his empire. But all of this comes to a halt when they both fall in love with the same woman, Niharika, played by Hrishita Bhatt.

Haasil was one of the first films that got Irrfan widespread acclaim. It even won him a Filmfare Award at the time, back when these awards still meant something. On the film’s 18th anniversary in May 2021, Dhulia took to Twitter and recalled that while editing the climax of the film, Irrfan walked in and said that Rannvijay would be as memorable as Gabbar Singh. He added, “Well, the villain was unlike Gabbar but yes Irfan will always be remembered.”

Haasil’s plot might feel dated today but it is the performances here that keep the film timeless.

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