It has been an extended slugfest rife with political spite, and television sets and blog posts bludgeoning you with cynical realism. Time for change? You bet! Take your kid and/or your inner kid to Hawa Hawaai, a simple tale of beating the odds and flying to the finish line with a flourish.
Hawa Hawaai is impeccably sincere in tone and intent. Partly because the director, Amol Gupte, is genuinely invested in the welfare of children, and partly because the sprightly young actors carry off the film on their slight but confident shoulders.
Tragedy forces young Arjun Harishchandra Waghmare (Partho Gupte) to migrate to Mumbai and supplement the family's earnings. The boy who once recited heartfelt poetry in school must now serve hot tea at a roadside stall. But he perseveres, a lesson taught lovingly by his father (Makrand Deshpande).
Respite comes to him in the form of Lucky Sir (Saqib Saleem), a roller-skating instructor tinged with idealism and good faith. In a city bereft of open spaces for children's sports, Lucky Sir coaches youngsters in the fine art of roller-skating, in an empty parking lot. Entranced by the sport, Arjun pines for the shoes-on-wheels, wanting to tear through the wind, much like the other kids who can afford a pair of skates and so much more.
Gupte does a fine job of sketching the two contrasting worlds that exist within any city. There are children who attend the school assembly and conduct experiments in a chemistry lab, while others climb mountains of garbage and roam the streets selling ware.
The cinematography is evocative but never dark. Hawa Hawaai is meant for a young audience, and the frames that capture the lives of the slum kids remain uniformly compassionate. This is no Slumdog Millionaire
From the sea of children whose only reality is underpaid labour, we meet Arjun's best buddies, car mechanic Gochi (Ashfaque Khan), gajra-seller Bhura (Salman Chote Khan), zari-worker Abdul (Maaman Menon) and rag picker Bindaas Murugan (Thirupathi Kushnapelli). Real and reel lives coincide here as these 4 young actors are indeed children of the street, working with Amol Gupte in his theatre workshop for the underprivileged.
You will be insanely lucky if you have friends like these rooting for you. Arjun and his mates reclaim the night for a brief moment of leisure, and try their feet at roller-skating. Gradually, our young hero readies himself on a pair of homespun skates, courtesy "Friends Inc." There is great chemistry between these 5, and they are truly the life of the film.
The story moves on predictably with the coach discovering his protégé in Arjun, and the adversity they must face bravely in order to emerge victorious.
While the screenplay seems roughly stitched up at certain junctures, and the storyline smacks of oversimplification, the film possesses a big heart. That is the strength of Hawa Hawaai.
Equally, the treatment of poverty through the cinematic lens is a sensitive one without ever crossing over into easy condescension.
Ultimately, Gupte paints in broad strokes a supportive community comprising of friends, family and allies. This world is populated with characters like "the great American keeda" (Lucky Sir's NRI brother) and "Burger Badshah" (plump rich boy) that represent privilege but share Arjun's dream to win the gold medal.
A customary warning is due - Hawa Hawaai is not a sports flick like Chak De
. It is a story about loss, hardship, and the will that never dies. The music of the film, especially the uplifting "Sapno Ko Ginte Ginte" and "Choolhe Ke Angaaray", are a symbol of this spirit.
Saqib Saleem as the inspiring coach is impressive as is Neha Joshi who plays Arjun's meek mother. While the children are brilliant, Ashfaque Khan as Gochi is unbeatable.
Noticeably, Hawa Hawaai does not contain the silent but intense poignancy of Stanley Ka Dabba
. Yet, it is worth a watch. Amol Gupte excels in creating wondrous magic between boys and their parents, specifically fathers or father figures. Maybe next time he can introduce young girls in the script (heaven knows they are underrepresented!).
All in all, Hawa Hawaai is compelling because it is told from the heart, and reminds us why a generous heart is not an option but a necessity!