My first impression on leaving the theater was that I liked Chak De India better, but I changed my mind on further reflection. Right from the initial scenes where the cynicism of Bollywood society is laid bare, to the gripping finale, Halla Bol grabs your attention and doesn't let go (alright, maybe it does let go a bit during the inevitable, but mercifully few songs).
This was my first Ajay Devgan movie (sue me), and I must say, he has presence; lots of it. He may not be as good looking as the Bollywood hunks who cannot act their way out of a paper bag, but makes up for it with the intensity he brings to his role.
Some of the scenes are over the top, like when Ajay Devgan's character pees on the Persian carpet at the minister's house (where did they get hold of this guy, BTW? They might as well have replaced him with a cartoon), or when Pankaj Kapoor's truck develops bullet-proofing capabilities when he makes his dramatic appearance to save Mr Devgan. There are also some made-for-cinema coincidences (including the above-mentioned appearance of Pankaj Kapoor at the right place at the right time) like the old director's granddaughter being a forensic pathologist who plays a vital role in the revival of the murder case, but these can be overlooked in light of the movie's other redeeming qualities.
The movie also ventures into controversial territory, with party cadres (Shiv Sainiks?) going on the rampage against Devgan, and leaders of the Muslim community offering support to him (BTW, his refusal to accept their help because he believed that he could get justice in a secular country seems more like a nod to political correctness than a portrayal of how things are in real life).
All in all, definitely a must-watch movie.
(In other news, hell froze over at 19:21 IST today. The met department attributed this event to an oath a certain individual took re: Bollywood movies about a decade or so ago).