'Hawaizaada' Review: Ornate visual fest but soulless!
By: Sonia Chopra
Critic's Rating: 17/5
Friday 30 January 2015
Ayushmann Khurrana, Pallavi Sharda, Mithun Chakraborty
The film's intent is laudable, and so is the story. 'Hawaizaada' transports us back to pre-independence 19th century India, and tells us the story of a boy, considered good for nothing, who goes on to make the world?s first functional airplane. Of course we know that history has credited the Wright Brothers with the feat (the film claims the Brothers constructed their airplane 8 years after India's triumph). So a film that exposes/challenges this accepted belief has the potential for an exhilarating, intelligent and deeply emotional film, never mind the lack of any proof.
But that's not what you get, sadly. Most of the film trails the dull romance between Shivi (Ayushmann Khurrana) and a local dancer Sitara (Pallavi Sharda) who addresses herself in the third person. By the way, you should know how they met. She's acting in a play; he falls for her at first sight. He goes onstage in place of an absent actor. There?s chaos as his costume rips and he's down to his shorty shorts. He then professes love for the girl right there, and she, her play ruined and all, is unruffled, in fact amused.
Like the above-mentioned scene, the attempts at humour in the film are lame, even as the background score, which doesn?t stop for even a breath, eggs us on to laugh.
A word about the production design and art direction? it's ambitious and enthusiastic, but it's just too much! There are the obvious period nods like someone reading 'The Statesman' and going for a film to 'Capitol Cinema'. But then comes the surfeit. So you have candles, candles, candles and more candles! They're everywhere ? whether it's a bedroom, a laboratory, or a street corner; whether it's a romantic scene or an emotional one. And we are to understand that pre-independence India, including court-rooms, was painted only in the colours of teal and distressed blue-greens. Heck, even the sky is severely colour-corrected.
The art direction is so overwhelming, the actors pale in comparison. So you end up admiring that beautiful statue in the foreground, the gorgeous furniture, the incredible colour on the walls, rather than focusing on the romance that grates on your nerves. Plus the actors are at another disadvantage, as they have to make themselves heard above the relentless and peculiar background score.
Ayushmann Khurrana is earnest, but there is little soul in the performance. Of course the characterization itself is shaky, and the dialogue often bizarre. Ditto Sitara's character. She's a fiery performer one time, and in the second half (having quit her "disrespectful" job) turns into a damsel in distress, who upon being rescued by our hero, settles for ironing his clothes with a charming kettle-pot iron, sewing, and being the supportive love interest. She still continues to address herself in third person though. Pallavi Sharda comes up with a serviceable performance, considering the role is essentially decorative.
The other characters include the British officers (portrayed as bumbling caricatures) who miraculously reach whenever and wherever the airplane is being discussed.
The only interesting portions are when Shivi and his mentor (Mithun Chakraborty) go about making the "vichitra yantra" and naming it 'hawaijahaz'. The making of the plane is given a strong patriotic flavour, considering that the British are opposing it. And the scenes showcasing the process are fascinating (even if glossed over). The moments where the machine first takes flight are beautiful and you are moved as the film?s ending tells us how the credit of inventing the airplane was unjustly given to someone else. Again, one doesn't know how authentic the film's claim is.
Debut director Vibhu Virender Puri was probably attempting? as one can see from the visual splendor, shots of magic realism, and wry humour? to make a Wes Anderson-meets-Sanjay Leela Bhansali style epic. But barring the film's story and a few immersing scenes, all you have is characters you don't emotionally invest in, bizarre dialogue, and a lifeless romance. That's unfortunate indeed, as this story was rich with possibilities.
Rating: Two and a half stars