Friday, January 30, 2015

Movie Review: Hawaizaada

Hawaizaada claims to be the story of Shivkar Talpade, a Maharasthrian scientist in the 1890’s who supposedly built the world’s first unmanned aircraft, almost a decade before the Wright brothers. 

Hawaizaada should have been called ‘Hawe me zyada’, because it takes a ton of creative liberties to dole out a completely fictional story using a real person. That is still permissible, because most historical movies seldom follow facts. What isn’t acceptable is that Hawaizaada is the most excruciatingly boring movie in recent times.

Directed by Vibhu Puri and starring Ayushman Khurana as Talpade, Hawaizaada is well intentioned for sure – it’s just a simple crowd pleasing love story set to the backdrop of a historical invention. Boy meets girl, girl loves and leaves guy, guy invents the airplane – no foreseeable harm, except for one thing: the treatment. Sample these:

A clerk with the intention to help build the plane musters up all his dramatic range and bellows ‘Ye Britishers hamare pair baandh ke rakhenge, humein rokenge nahi udne se’.

Khurana’s Talpade madly bellows ‘Mi khooni ahe’ (I’m a killer) over and over again in a bout of guilt.

A plane, that looks like a prop from early 90’s Indian TV takes off to the roaring (and by that I mean eardrum shatteringly loud) rendition of Vande Mataram as onlookers wipe tears in awe.

The plane itself is constructed on a gigantic ship on a Mumbai shoreline. And there are British officers yelling ‘Bloody Indians’ every few minutes.

Hawaizaada is so over the top and operatic it makes Sanjay Leela Bhansali seem like Kiarostami. Everyone, literally everyone, overacts. Khurana, generally a likable actor, flails his arms, wildly mouthing hammy dialogue that is too serious for his own good. He also makes strange comical faces for the ‘lighthearted’ scenes. Pallavi Sharda does a cartoonish rendition of Meena Kumari, spectacularly stumbling at every attempt of a serious dialogue. Mithun Chakraborty wears a wig that is only less hilariously terrible than his mugging performance as a ‘quirky’ scientist. The cop in the film speaks in a weird anglo Indian accent. The rest talk and behave in an exaggerated manner, as if they’re in a bad children’s film. Even the horses in the film make extra grunts.

And yet, despite having a tone so loud and overwrought the film doesn’t move a single muscle in your body. No matter how hard director Puri tries to make the film scream at you, he somehow only manages to bore you to near death.

Apart from the tonal and performance issues, the film also suffers from one other tiny little problem – it doesn’t make any freaking sense.

a) The protagonist’s mentor builds a plane on a ship instead of on the ground. No explanation why. Then when the plane is fully built on the ship, it automatically finds itself on the ground, far away from the ship to be tested for takeoff.

b) Khurana’s Talpade is supposed to be an adult sized manly man who’s flunked so many times he’s still in 6th standard. Yet he somehow gains the smarts in a matter of a month to build the world’s first airplane.

c) Then when the plane is finally being built over a period of two years, the kid (Naman Jain) who helps out Talpade stays the same height and build.

d) Plus we get a Muslim extremist/freedom fighter saluting Talpade with a Vande Mataram.  

e) Talpade’s mentor (played by Chakraborty) designs a Batsuit. No really – the suit that Batman wears in The Dark Knight. In 1895. And we see Khurana flying around the ocean wearing the Batsuit in eye-rollingly tacky CGI.

f) Not to mention the blatant attempts at emotional manipulation, and the asinine attempts of legitimizing Hindu mythology with a fictional story, in megadicebel loud jingoistic tones, complete with patriotic songs as BGM. This is a fictionalized story of a man who attempted to make the first plane, why is it shoving nationalist pride down our throats? How can you feel proud as Indians, if the film in question is centered on a fictional Indian man? Are we supposed to believe that a Marathi mulga flew around in a Batsuit in Mumbai and no one filed for patent? Doesn’t matter, the filmmakers say, just drop your intelligence, pick up your tutaris and wave the national flag around. 

The cherry on top, however, is the fact that despite the painful two and a half hours runtime of a film about the world’s first plane, we’re never shown the plane actually being built. It’s bad enough that everyone in the film is either singing or dancing or romancing or hamming instead of making the damned plane, but it’s infuriating that they don’t even show the plane being made. One moment Khurana is sharpening his pencil passionately, or taking a gander at his ruler, the next moment hey presto – the plane is ready. This happens over and over again – no mention of how the plane was built, because clearly the filmmakers didn’t know either. And that’s only because 99% of the story is fictionalized.

The awkward tone of the movie makes you wonder whom it was made for. There’s too much romance, too little adventure for children, and it’s too foolish for adults. Puri attempts to make the film with a sense of wonder - childlike, regrettably he manages to render a film that is childish.

(First published in Firstpost)

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