Saturday, May 10, 2014

Hawaa Hawaai  

Boy Zone

Amole Gupte has made Hawaa Hawaai with such good intentions and so much heart, that it seems churlish to list its flaws.

The writer-director handles children very well, but the freshness of his first Stanley Ka Dabba makes way for a bundle of clichés in his second. Even a predictable underdog-to-winner story can have some novel elements (look at this week’s English release Million Dollar Arm, for instance.) There is nothing unpredictable about Hawaa Hawaai and the mush is layered on double thick.

Arjun (Partho Gupte), a bright village lad, loses his father (Makrand Deshpande) to a failed crop, so he has to come to Mumbai with his mother (Neha Joshi) and start work at a tea stall owned by a slave-driving owner (Sanjay Dadhich). The ever-smiling boy works from dawn to midnight and helps out at home, which is a hut in a slum, with several other inhabitants of various ages.

What makes the slog worthwhile for him, is the conversion of the drab office space by day into a skating rink at night, full of chirpy rich kids and their coach Lucky Sir (Saqib Saleem).  That, and his other child-labourer buddies—garage mechanic Gochi (Ashfaque Bismillah Khan), gajra seller Bhura (Salman Chhote Khan), embroidery worker Abdul (Maaman Memon) and ragpicker Bindaas Murugan (Thirupathi Kushnapelli). The kids make their drudgery look like play, and Gupte is not in the least judgmental about the people who employ children. His idea of comment is a song montage in which poor kids work and well-off kids go to school.

When they see the passion for skating in the eyes of their friend, the four kids fashion skates for him out of scrap, Lucky Sir discovers the Eklavya in their midst, drops plans to go to the US with his frowning brother (Anuj Sachdeva) and decides to make a champ out of Arjun.

Of course, there is no doubt that Arjun will win, but by the time he does, there is so much melodrama thrown in, that you count the minutes for the film to end. 

Amole Gupte wants to make points about rural poverty, child labour, the indifference of the rich, but all this is known and rather obvious. To avoid really disturbing the audience, the kids’ bosses are all kind, there is no cruelty shown to them (except for long hours), there are no girls on the streets and absolutely no ugliness associated with urban living at bare subsistence level. And, to find a way out, the child has to struggle, has to win a race and get a rich patron. 

It’s not as if there are no charming moments—the poor kids are endearing, the rich kids are all uncharacteristically sweet; Lucky doesn’t see himself as Arjun’s saviour, but understands that life has taught him a lesson too. The performances by the children and Saqib Salim are commendable. If the film is seen widely and inspires some people, it would have served its purpose, but still, it could have been a less simplistic and much better film.


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