Director: Vibhu Puri
Cast: Ayushmann Khurrana, Pallavi Sharda, Mithun Chakraborty
Rating: 1.5 stars
There are times when the grey areas of history, the parts that have not been chronicled in black and white, tell more fascinating stories than the official text. A bunch of illiterate, poor, debt ridden farmers take on the massive British Empire in a game of cricket --- Ashutosh Gowariker took this subject from some faded footnotes of history to make cinematic history with Lagaan. It went on to show how, when the story and its retelling is compelling, the extent of its loyalty to facts can be overlooked.
Barring some documents regarding his research, there is no absolute scientific or historic proof that Mumbai scholar Shivkar Bapuji Talpade actually flew the first plane known to mankind in the year 1895, eight years before the globally acknowledged aviation pioneers, the Wright brothers did, in 1903. Director Vibhu Puri obviously had a lot of faith in his own research, enough to make Hawaizaada, that traces Shivkar’s journey to the skies. Now had the film been as convincing as his faith, the dubiousness of the claim could have been ignored. But in this case, it just sticks out like a sore thumb.
Agreed, the team of art directors had to recreate Bombay of the 1800s and they do a fabulous job of making every frame look like an opulent, vintage painting. But therein lays a problem. The look and feel ends up becoming a little too unreal, almost embedded in fantasy, which doesn’t help a story that is screaming to be acknowledged as the truth.
Shivkar’s character on paper is an actor’s dream role. A mad-scientist, who has failed eight times in the fourth standard, drops out of school. He grows up to fall in love with Sitara, (Pallavi Sharda) a dancer and gets thrown out of his home. The brilliant black sheep of the family then meets an old scientist, the eccentric Subbaraya Shastri, (Mithun Chakraborty) who ropes him in, to give shape to his life’s secret ambition of building a plane. Shivkar has many shades, he’s brilliant, loyal, lovelorn and obstinate. So it’s a pity that Ayushmann Khurrana (who had shown so much promise) has the same template of expressions for such a rich character. The carefree Vicky Donor smirk is still intact in this biopic of a visionary who lived in the late 1800s. And that’s just odd. He seems more sentimental than necessary in the intense scenes, and whether it’s betrayal or guilt, he has the same face for it all. His courtship with Sitara borders on hammy, and since it occupies a large chunk of the narrative, it makes Hawaizaada a doubly tedious watch.
Perhaps the director pinned his hopes a little too much on the (non-existent) chemistry between a very blah Pallavi Sharda and Ayushmann, to underplay the physics part of this aviation chronicle. Barring some rough sketches of the plane, a random riddle and stray mentions of the Rig Veda, we never get to know exactly how Shivkar and his mentor became convinced that a vessel made of metal and wood can actually take off from the ground.
If the lead pair is average, the supporting cast doesn't work wonders either. The Englishmen look straight out of a school play trying their luck in Hindi cinema. The script is wobbly, the dialogues are painfully cliché, and not a single scene, despite the artful spectacle, stands out. Adding to the commotion, are an endless amount of songs that are as redundant as the lead actor’s template of expressions.
Hindi cinema feeds us enough fiction for us to expect a completely true story told with hundred per cent accuracy. So the factual question marks are not entirely what we fault Hawaizaada for. True or not, it was a good subject that the director had his hands on. But sadly, Hawaizaada limps a bit too much to even come close to convincingly recreate the life of a man who dreamt to be the first one to fly.