Movie review: Hawaa Hawaai is random and loose
Star Cast: Partho Gupte, Saqib Saleem, Makarand Deshpande
Director : Amole Gupte
I love underdogs. Who doesn’t? Especially those who come from disadvantaged backgrounds and show the privileged what’s what. And even more so when they are played by a bunch of endearing fellows, led by a lad who has a flame in his eyes, and a pleasing steadiness of purpose. Partho Gupte’s second outing in his father’s second directorial venture ‘Hawaa Hawaai’, should have been a clear winner by rights: he is excellent; so are several of the other performances, but the film doesn’t match up.
Young Arjun Harishchandra Waghmare (Parho Gupte) is suddenly forced into leaving his village, and supplementing his family’s income. A Mumbai tea-stall owner employs him to cart glasses of ‘kadak chai malaai maar ke’ to his customers all day long. The meager sum he gets for such drudge work sits lightly on his blistered hands, but his feet get wings when he discovers a group of kids learning to skate, egged on by their enthusiastic teacher (Saqib Saleem).
This is the kind of film where we know the outcome from the first frame. We know that Arjun will, by the end of the film, be skirting the winning tape. Doughty slumdogs have had long Bollywood history — there have been many in between Mira Nair’s Chaipau and Danny Boyle’s Jamal. But Gupte’s Arjun and his gang do not deliver enough surprises: there’s heavy-handedness afoot, if you’ll allow the mix of metaphors.
Gupte’s clear affection for his young cast makes for a close-up of the slumkids and their hardscrabble lives without being patronizing. But overall the script is random and loose, feels strung along, and except for a few sparkling scenes, doesn’t really rise to the occasion. And there are just not enough subtle notes in a film that is in dire need of it: how else can you prevent a story that wants to include cotton farmers’ suicides, the abject poverty of slum dwellers, the criminal carelessness of the rich, and the never-say-die human spirit from drowning in schmaltz?
The message that anyone can dream and win drives the film. Unsurprisingly, most of the good moments belong to Arjun and his four slumdog pals (Ashfaque Bismillah Khan as ‘Gochi’, Salman Chote Khan as ‘Bhura’, Thirupathi Kushnapelli as ‘Murugan’, and Maaman Menon as ‘Abdul’) as they go about fashioning a pair of skates from scrap (yes, they can), reaching out to the handsome young wheel-chair bound coach ‘Lucky Sir’, who never wavers from his commitment to his student, despite being lured to the land of dollars by his ‘bade bhaiya’. And the pre-teen star of the show (yes, he can).
Partho is a natural. We saw that in his first film, the heart-warming ‘Stanley Ka Dabba’. He’s back tugging at our heartstrings, and it’s a pleasure to hear a young actor actually speaking his lines with such conviction. ‘Hawaa Hawaai’ has a big beating heart, but you wish it had been a better film: it trundles on, leaps up intermittently, but doesn’t fly.