June Issue 2014

By | Arts & Culture | Movies | Published 10 years ago

With the Filmfare award-winning Taare Zameen Par (2007), Stanley Ka Dabba (2011) and now Hawaa Hawaai to his credit, director Amole Gupte is being hailed as Bollywood’s master of the ‘kid flick.’

In this rags-to-riches tale, a young boy living in a Mumbai slum dreams of becoming an inline skating champion. After the unexpected death of his father, Arjun (played yet again by Gupte’s own son, Partho Gupte) decides to work for a roadside Chaiwalla to help his mother support their family. During his first night-shift, Arjun watches in awe as the parking lot the tea stall is stationed at miraculously turns into a skating rink where all the rich kids, or “burger badshahs,” are trained for skating competitions by the over-zealous coach, Lucky (Saqib Saleem).

Although at first Lucky is unaware of Arjun’s longing to train alongside the other children, his street friends’ nifty scheming soon gets him into the limelight. They will help Arjun’s dream come true, no matter how unrealistic it is. Gochi (who easily has the best lines in the movie), Bhura, Abdul and Murugan, like Arjun, are also engaged in underpaid jobs: as a mechanic at a garage, a gajra seller on the road, a karigar at an embroiderer’s shop and a seller of scrap that is scavenged from a garbage dump, respectively. They hang out together on a pavement, every day at lunchtime.

After finding out, the hard way, that a pair of inline skates actually costs nearly 30,000 rupees — not 30, as the children in their innocence had thought — the boys put their heads together to find a more affordable solution, since defeat clearly is not an option. Using whatever they can forage from a garbage pit, they collect all the pieces needed to make their own pair of rollerblades with the help of the mechanic chacha. The result is ‘Hawaa Hawaai,’ the most unconventional pair of inline skates ever seen, finished off with a red, shimmering zari cloth and a gajra, courtesy Abdul and Bhura.

The genuineness in camaraderie displayed between the five friends — four of whom are complete novices to the world of acting and were selected from Gupte’s theatre workshop for underprivileged children, Aseema — is undeniably this movie’s selling point. They really are the stars of the film, helped by a witty script that portrays them as loyal and ever-so-street-smart. “Jahan upar walay nay patkha diya wahin say chalnay lagay,” says Gochi, when Lucky asks whether the boys ever wonder why they have to work while other children their age are at school. On another occasion, when coach Lucky shares his dream of sending his five young friends to school, Gochi mockingly remarks, “One dream at a time, eh sir?” (in an obvious reference to Lucky’s original and, thus far, unfulfilled promise to make Arjun a skating champion). The film also explores the hypocrisy of privileged ambitions, when coach Lucky (Saleem) begins to realise that he loves training young children only because it satisfies his own desire for achievement.

Hawaa Hawaai does not star any famous names, and the film starts off with performances that are rather uni-dimensional, lacking the complexity that characterises real human beings: Lucky is excessively passionate, Arjun’s mother is always crying, and Arjun himself is forever smiling to the point of becoming wearisome. However, as the plot develops, the emotions get more complex and the cast begins to show its real depth.

Although Neha Joshi (as Arjun’s mother) has few lines, her body language alone portrays the guilt a young widow feels at using her underaged son’s meagre earnings to support her family. And Partho Gupte’s plaster of a smile eventually turns quite upside down as the movie progresses. He delivers surprisingly well in several scenes, including one where he must portray a young boy broken by the fear that he has lost, forever, his only opportunity in life to become a “champion.” The tears and the anguish are real enough to get one thinking that perhaps the skating competition is about more than just that — it’s about the struggle for respect, honour and any semblance of achievement for these young slum-dwellers.

This review was originally published in Newsline’s June 2014 issue under the headline, “Flying Without Wings.”

Hiba Mahamadi was an Editorial Assistant at Newsline