There are two ways to make a period film in Bollywood.
One is the Ashutosh Gowarikar route, which entails a beautiful gori (Lagaan) or a handsome gora (Mangal Pandey) preferably linked (romantically) to the lead. Throw in garish costumes (the upcoming Mohanjodaro), and ostentatious sets (Jodha Akbar), for a truly over the top (OTT) period narrative. Mind you, this route did get an Oscar nod!
The other is to take a page from Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s book; an epic celebration of melodramatic colour with flowing sarees (Devdas), beautiful faces (Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam), and lavish art direction (Saawariya), giving the audiences a sense of nostalgia from a not so distant past (Guzarish).
As if it isn’t hard enough to navigate through the layers of costume-induced period drama in Bollywood, the added dimension of patriotism will give you the totally over the top Hawaizaada.
Vibhu Puri’s directorial venture is as confused as the footnote of aviation history it draws much of its plot from.
For a film based on historical fact, Hawaizaada is neither factual nor historical, and its creative license and whimsical cinematography makes for a confusing, inaccurate, and logically warped film.
The one area Hawaizaada does manage to capitalise on is the current political climate. Without taking any sides of the political debate, India’s resurgent nationalism finds an easy outlet in this movie, as a film about a Marathi boy, Shivkar Talpade (Ayushmann Khurana), who supposedly invented the hawai jahaz almost a decade before the Wright brothers.
|Official poster of Hawaizaada. - Photo courtesy: getmovieinfo.com|
A constant failure, Talpade, falls for a dancer, Sitara (Pallavi Sharda), is subsequently heart broken, and ultimately invents the plane with the help of Pandit Shastri (Mithun Chakraborty). Standard Bollywood fare as this might be, seeing a failed eighth grade student propositioning a professional lady of the night was a bit far-fetched, even by Bollywood standards.
In itself this could make for a decent story irrespective of the factual inaccuracies, but its treatment leaves much to be desired. A love story, copious amounts of nationalism and national pride, caricature-like characters, no clear, coherent vision, make this film an absolute mess. It’s like a costume drama on acid.
|Ayushmann Khurana and Pallavi Sharda in Hawaizaada. - Photo courtesy: wassupbollywood.com|
Hawaizaada is a valiant but an ill-advised effort at each of the subjects it tackles: a period film, a love story, and a patriotic movie, and never really does justice to any.
For instance, the lead couple, Shivkar and Sitara, do not have the same intensity as Rajjo and Naren did in 1942 A Love Story, another movie set in pre-independence India and at a more crucial juncture – Bharat chodo andolan – than the events depicted here. Similarly, Ayushmann’s shorts, or in this case shorty-shorts, spectacles, and Charlie Chaplain-esque antics never really convince us that this is a period piece.
As for the patriotic, it is clear that Puri is no Manoj Kumar.
With hardly a redeeming feature in its three-hour runtime, Hawaizaada is a film best avoided.
Randip Bakshi is a graduate student, avid film buff, and occasional blogger. He can be found musing on popular culture @filmijourneys.