With Hawaa Hawaai, Amol Gupte continues his exploration of children, their individuality, dreams and aspirations, and their innocence. He had writing credits in Taare Zameen Par that examined the mind of a dyslexic kid and his first full fledged directorial film Stanley Ka Dabba let us into the world of a mystery kid who never brought his lunch dabba to school. Hawaa Hawaai stars Partho Gupte – the Stanley from Stanley Ka Dabba – adding physical height to his already well honed acting skills that were much evident in the first film.
The film is about Arjun Harishchandra Waghmare (Partho Gupte) who distributes tea around Bandra-Kurla Complex in Mumbai. He moves to Mumbai with his mother after his father’s sudden death on losing their drought ridden land and is forced to take up the job. Come night and the parking area in front of the tea stall turns into theater with kids on expensive roller blades zooming around their trainer “Lucky” Sir (Saqib Saleem) and Arjun is soon enamored by it. The triumph of the underprivileged becomes the theme of the film and Gupte borrows not too subtly from the story of Eklavya to make his case. It also hints on the issues of farmer suicides (the filmmakers thank P Sainath in the opening credits) and chooses to explore everything that happens after.
Gupte feels at home when his focus is on the children. Some of the early scenes between the street kids, friends of Arjun selling flowers, working as a mechanic or assisting with hand-looms are the film’s best. The character of Gochi is a riot! His little moments with these little kids make the film. When Rafique the handloom kid requests half a day leave, his boss just begins to yell at him when a local train whizzes past as the greater annoyance. A moment stolen from many of Mumbai’s characteristics moments talks more to us than all the drama Gupte unleashes on us later in the film. The same kid we notice uses a broken frame for his spectacles fixed using his talent with cloth and thread. We are not shown any of this but Gupte’s arc with these kids is such that we notice their value at every step. They get together to make custom roller blades from scrap for Arjun and we see each of them as individuals with their own story. Their largesse can be grating but it is a running theme with Amol Gupte to stick to the incorruptibility of children and leave the evilness to the adults. Maybe rightly so. Even the privileged kid who has to be ushered out of his luxury car with snack in hand is shown as a really nice kid. But unlike Stanley Ka Dabba there aren’t evil individuals here but it is the system as a whole. Some of them, like Gochi, have made their peace with it but some like Arjun want to soar high and are only looking for motivation from the likes of Lucky Sir, his kids and everyone around him in this film.
Hawaa Hawaai is a film that has its heart in the right place but makes some terrible decisions along the way. It has a penchant for theatrics and there is an unnecessary romance awkwardly fitted into the screenplay. Once the film mutates into the underdog-triumphing-at-a-sporting-event story it is a chore to watch a bunch of cliches put together. The drama too has no flair and some of the scenes like Lucky’s brother joining the troupe for the race is downright laughable. But this is an earnest piece of work and for that at least it deserves to be lauded.
(An edited version of this was first published in The New Indian Express)