September 9, 2011
Anupam Kher, Gargi Datar, Tanuja, Tinnu Anand
Knowing when to stop … that’s an art not enough Hindi film makers have mastered. And that’s my problem with this otherwise sweet little film about an old man in a village whose granddaughter tries to help him realise his unfulfilled dream of sitting in an aeroplane one day. Hawai Dada is what the village folk call Anupam Kher’s character whose story about how he once sat in a plane is now part of local lore as is his habit of constantly gazing up at the sky to watch planes flying past. When a new airline company advertises low promotional launch fares, Hawai Dada and the little girl make it their mission to get the old man a ticket.
Kher – who has produced this film with Satish Kaushik – is joined by veteran Tanuja doing a charming job of playing his sometimes abrasive, sometimes gentle wife. In the role of their spirited granddaughter is the talented child actor Gargi Datar who I hope you will all get to see in bigger and better marketed films in the future since this one was so poorly promoted that I watched it all alone in a hall in Delhi just the day after its release, having caused much amusement at the ticket counter since no one else had bothered with the film till I walked in.
The other pluses of Hawai Dada: the relationship between the little girl and the old man is touching. And it’s easy to get drawn into a poor man’s dream of sitting in a hawai jahaaz in this world far removed from the crowded airports and frequent flyers of big cities and towns in post-liberalisation and post-Air-Deccan India. Gargi Datar – who earlier this year had a small role in Disney’s Zokkomon with Darsheel Safary – is an absolute natural before the camera. It’s always a challenge to extract a good performance from an actor so young, allowing him/her to retain a child-like loveability without crossing the line into irritating cutesiness, and while Datar’s intrinsic talent is undeniable, director Ajay Kartik too needs to be commended for his work with her. In a year that brought us some lovely child stars, here’s another name that goes on my list that’s topped by Chinmay Kambli and Taher Sutterwala from Bheja Fry helmsman Sagar Ballary’s Kachha Limboo, Delzad Sanjay Hiwale and Sohail Lakhani from that that completely unheralded film Bubble Gum, Harsh Mayar and Husaan Saad from the film I Am Kalam, Partho and all his co-stars from Stanley ka Dabba, and the wonderful ensemble cast of Salman Khan’s production Chillar Party.
The entire supporting cast of Hawai Dada does a commendable job, but it’s particularly heart-rending to see the pain on the face of the protagonist’s postman son who can’t afford to pay for his father’s ultimate dream. There’s also something very refreshing about the way the cinematographer has captured the countryside with its raging river and numerous trees, the maidan where children play and the chai ka dukaan where old men gather for a chat. I read a report where Kher mentioned that this film was shot in a place called Tachmarhi in rural Madhya Pradesh. There you go, I just made an addition to my must-visit list!
The minuses: Some of what looked like CG used to show us planes was below par, and the scene in the end is downright tacky. I’m willing to forgive that in a film that must have been made on a low budget. But it’s harder to absolve Kartik (also Hawai Dada’s screenplay writer) for not knowing when to stop. I could understand the struggle to gather cash to pay for the ticket, I could understand the new airline’s advertisement getting lost, I could understand the difficulties these simple folk had in handling the Internet … but some of the more dramatic hurdles they faced felt contrived … and after a point it seemed like ploy after ploy after was being thought up to keep Hawai Dada away from his beloved plane, to stretch a short story to feature film length and to manipulate the audience to tears. The climax was especially forced and bothered me more than I can explain.
Despite this, the look of the film, the relationship between Hawai Dada and all his family members especially his granddaughter, and Gargi’s natural performance are worth your time.
Rating (out of five): **1/4
CBFC Rating: U without cuts
Running time: 99 Minutes
Photograph courtesy: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Hawai-DADA/267859856568525