Hawaizaada claims to be the story of Shivkar Talpade, a Maharasthrian scientist from the 1860s, who supposedly built the world’s first unmanned aircraft, almost a decade before the Wright brothers. The film should have been called ‘Hawe me zyada’, because it takes a ton of creative liberties to dole out a completely fictional story using a real person. That is still permissible, because historical movies seldom follow facts in a bid to make the story more entertaining. What isn’t acceptable is that Hawaizaada is the most excruciatingly boring movie we’ve seen in recent times.
Directed by Vibhu Puri and starring Ayushmann Khurrana as Talpade, Hawaizaada is well intentioned – it’s a simple crowd-pleasing love story, set against the backdrop of colonial India. Boy meets girl, girl loves and leaves guy, guy invents the airplane. No foreseeable harm, except for one thing: the film’s treatment. Here’s a sample:
There are British officers yelling “Bloody Indians!” every few minutes.
A clerk, who wants to help build the plane, musters up all his dramatic range and bellows, “Ye Britishers hamare pair baandh ke rakhenge, humein rokenge nahi udne se.” [“These Britishers may tie our feet, but they can’t stop us from flying.”]
Khurana’s Talpade madly bellows, “Mi khooni ahe!” (I’m a killer) over and over again in a bout of guilt.
A plane, that looks like a prop from a ’90s’ Indian television show takes off to the roaring (and by that I mean eardrum shatteringly loud) rendition of “Vande Mataram” as onlookers wipe tears in awe.
The plane itself is constructed on a gigantic ship on a Mumbai shoreline.
Hawaizaada is so over the top and operatic it makes Sanjay Leela Bhansali seem like Abbas Kiarostami. Everyone, literally everyone, overacts. Khurrana, generally a likable actor, flails his arms and mouths hammy dialogues wildly mouthing hammy dialogue. He also makes strange, comical faces for the ‘lighthearted’ scenes. Pallavi Sharda does a cartoonish rendition of Meena Kumari, spectacularly stumbling at every attempt to utter serious dialogues. Mithun Chakraborty wears a wig that is only less hilariously terrible than his mugging performance as a ‘quirky’ scientist. The cop in the film speaks in a weird Anglo-Indian accent. Everyone talks and behaves in an exaggerated manner, as if they’re in a bad children’s film. Even the horses in the film make extra grunts.
And yet, despite having a tone so loud and overwrought, the film doesn’t move a single muscle in your body. No matter how hard director Puri tries to make the film scream at you, he somehow only manages to bore you to near death in the process of trying to manipulate you emotionally.
This is a fictionalized story of a man who attempted to make the first plane. Why is it shoving nationalist pride down our throats? Are we supposed to believe that a Marathi mulga flew around in a Batsuit in Mumbai and no one filed for a patent? Doesn’t matter, the filmmaker says; forsake your intelligence, pick up your tutaris and wave the national flag around.
Apart from the tonal and performance issues, the film also suffers from one other tiny little problem – it doesn’t make any sense.
a) The protagonist’s mentor builds a plane on a ship, for no explicable reason. Then, when the plane is fully built on the ship, it automatically finds itself on the ground, far away from the ship, to be tested for takeoff. How? No one knows.
b) Khurrana’s Talpade is supposed to be an adult-sized manly man who’s flunked so many times he’s still in 6th standard. Yet somehow, he has the smarts to build the world’s first airplane in the matter of one month.
c) When the plane is finally being built over a period of two years, Talpade’s kid helper (Naman Jain) stays the same height and build.
d) A Muslim extremist/freedom fighter salutes Talpade with a Vande Mataram.
e) Talpade’s mentor (played by Chakraborty) designs a Batsuit. No really – the suit that Batman wears in The Dark Knight. In 1895. And we see Khurrana flying around the ocean wearing the Batsuit in eye-rollingly tacky CGI.
The cherry on the cake of Hawaizaada’s idiocy, however, is that despite the painful two and a half hours runtime of a film about the world’s first plane, we’re never shown the plane actually being built. It’s bad enough that everyone in the film is either singing or dancing or romancing or hamming instead of making the damned plane, but infuriatingly, we never see the plane being made. Clearly, the filmmaker had no idea, Maybe because 99% of this story is fiction. Consequently, one moment Khurrana is sharpening his pencil passionately or taking a gander at his ruler, the next moment, hey presto! The plane is ready.
The awkward tone of the movie makes you wonder whom it was made for. There’s too much romance and too little adventure for children, and it’s too foolish for adults. Puri attempts to infuse Hawaizaada with a child-like sense of wonder. Regrettably he manages to render a film that is childish.