Amole Gupte directs his son Partho and Saqib Saleem in Hawaa Hawaai. Taking on the themes of rural poverty, child labor and the growing socio-economic divide in the country the movie is ambitious to say the least. But it is this ambition which is the undoing of what could potentially have been a wonderful movie.
Gupte makes many a directorial choices which had me cringing at the cheesiness or laughing out loud at the sheer ridiculousness of certain situations. After a visually stunning opening sequence underscored by a “roshesh-like” song we are jarringly moved from the idyllic rural surroundings to the claustrophobic environs of the dharavi slums. This move is perhaps one of the very few good decisions Gupte makes where he does not rely on a paint-by-numbers narrative and leaves the symbolisms to be deciphered by the audience.
Once in Mumbai it all goes belly up. Arjun Harishchandra Waghmare played ably by Gupte’s son Partho is working as a waiter cum cleaner at a tea vendor’s stall. After a grueling first day when he asks permission to leave, the vendor asks him to wait around because the business is about to pick up. In comes Lucky Bhargav skating coach extraordinaire played by the Over the Top Saqib Saleem. Partho is immediately mesmerized by a pair of inline skates. The desire to own and ride a pair of skates is immediate and not entirely believable – had they showed a few days pass by with Arjun seeing the kids perform all sorts of stunts it would have made more sense – but sadly Gupte or his editors decided that was way too much time to spend on developing the central theme of the movie.
Arjun and his gang of friends (again no time spent in establishing how they came to know each other and how they formed such a bond) use their considerable talents to come up with a pair of skates to realize Arjun’s dreams. What follows is a series of incoherent rants between Lucky and his great American Keeda brother about how passion means more than earning a decent livelihood (sermons delivered from the balcony of a sea-facing apartment). Also there is this off-tangent plot about a drunken rich kid running over lucky while he tried to protect his skating students and how he lets the kid go because his sister is earnest upon her return from outside the country and most importantly HOT. From here on it follows a fairly predictable plot of championing the underdog. All the choices Gupte makes story-wise do not feel original with a hint of Iqbal (a brilliant movie) or bhaag milkha bhaag (a forgettable affair)
In all this disappointment there are two stand outs for me – Neha Joshi who plays Arjun’s mother is brilliant and feels very real with her demeanor and carefully understated portrayal and Anuj Sachdeva who while minimal in his presence on screen makes an impact without needing to shout from the rooftops.
The film tries to force moral issues down your throat with a sequence that juxtaposes shots of kids rummaging through garbage to kids taking rickshaws to school, kids selling gajaras at signals to kids performing science experiments in school. It tries to highlight the plight of the farmers but seems dishonest in doing so. I had huge hopes in terms of the sensitivity and maturity in portrayal of children’s issues from the man behind Taare Zameen Par but here nothing seems to be further away.