Amole Gupte, writer, director, lyricist and producer, takes the safest path to telling the same old story of chasing one’s dreams against all odds. Only, it’s done lovingly. Like growing a much cherished plant. Unfortunately, it’s as painstaking too.
Every Hollywood sports film has a tried and tested formula. It usually revolves around an underdog who wants to excel in something beyond his reach. There is always that coach who is a reflection of the underdog. He has dreamt the same dream but destiny has dealt some cruel blow, which has snatched the dream forever. So he does the next best thing. He helps the underdog come out a winner.
A much more superior version of the story originated in India and was told in the most fascinating way possible in Mahabharata, through the coach, Dronacharya and determined disciples, and Arjun.
Gupte replaces archery with skating here. Eklavya is a young boy, Arjun Waghmare (Partho Gupte, Amole Gupte’s son). The film opens slowly with beautifully shot frames in red tones showing a diya being lit. The stunning cinematography (by Amol Gole, Vikas Sivaraman) is the hero of the film. It captures the gaze, takes its time to move and lovingly builds a feel good mood, enticing the viewer slowly into Arjun’s little world of prayers and a loving, peaceful family.
In an excellently edited sequence (by Deepa Bhatia, also the producer), we see Arjun is no longer in his wonderful, protective environment. He is now a chaiwalla in Mumbai, out of school and out of his village; forced to earn a living now that his father is no more. We only get to see the edited part of the story at a crucial moment in the most engaging and Gupte’s trademark emotionally charged manner, much later.
At night, Arjun’s workplace turns into a skating ground where rich children wearing shining skates costing upto a lakh, come and practice under the guidance of their young coach, Lucky Bhargava (Saqib Saleem, Huma Qureshi’s brother), the modern age Drona.
Lucky is another kind soul (there are too many here) who jumped in front of a car to save a student’s life and broke his foot. His dream is to help his students win a skating championship game. His brother, Bugs (Anuj Sachdeva, quite handsome), an ex skating expert, now an investment banker, wants him to quit his dreams and join him in the States. Their subplot really drags and is a contrived attempt to tug at the overdone sympathy theme.
Meanwhile, Arjun is enthralled by the skates. The little wheels give his own dreams new wings. Now comes the interesting part. No, it’s not his attempt at skating. It comes in the form of his four friends from the slums. These are victims of child labour; boys who collect garbage, work at garages, embroidery factories and sell gajras. The major part of the story follows these five children (‘paanch pandav’) and how their die hard spirit helps Arjun fly on his bright red, zari embroidered, wheels with ghunghroos, his new found ‘hawaa hawaai’.
These friends, especially Gochi (Ashfaque Khan) ends up charming, more than Arjun. While Arjun works at the empathy level built into the plot, there is very little additional characterization. The film falls drastically because of this. Neither Arjun nor Lucky do anything for us to root for them.
Every single character in the film is extremely kind hearted. This sugar syrupy treatment ends up coming across as extremely artificial. A constantly sobbing mother, a ‘bechara’ fatherless child who cannot afford skates, two brothers without parents and a bunch of street children who don’t have food to eat; all this together make for a ‘poor me, poor India’ story that doesn’t quite gel.
There is no antagonist or conflict here. Except poverty. This leads to some ‘Taare Zameen Par’ kind of preachiness on lack of basics like food and education. A dialogue here is thrown in for good measure, “School jayega to ghar mein kya kitaab khilayega?”
All the actors including Partho Gupte and Saqib Saleem are fairly average. The only one who stands out a little is Ashfaque Khan who plays the outspoken and bolder Gochi.
And the winner is… the fetching camera work. Even the garbage and gutters are made to look like work of art. That’s the only reason to watch ‘Hawaa Hawaai’ which slips and fails to inspire with its slow and safe treatment.
The song from Mr India featuring the glittering and gorgeous Sridevi might be your better bet.