Its tempting to repeatedly compare Amole Gupte’s second venture, Hawaa Hawaai, as a writer-producer-director with his freshman effort Stanley Ka Dabba especially since both films star his son Partho Gupte as the protagonist and both are films with a message.
And much like the earlier film, in Hawaa Hawaai too the child actors, all of them amateurs, outshine the adult actors.
Gupte spotlights the circumstances faced by underprivileged and street children by focusing on a family left to fend for themselves after a tragedy befalls them. His desperate mother puts Arjun Harishchandra Waghmare to work at a tea stall. Young Arjun takes on the task willingly, enthusiastically. This is a child who never complains, never bunks work and never sulks. He’s a little too good!
The tea stall services office goers by day and families, which come to watch their children train as skaters, by night. It is during this long day that slips into the night that Arjun begins to dream. His dream is to become a champion skater. And all it takes is four loyal, creative, innovative and selfless friends to rally around to help him make that dream a reality. They are a rag picker, a mechanic’s assistant, a gajra seller and a labourer in a beading workshop.
Literal metaphors and manipulation were refreshingly absent from Stanley Ka Dabba, but they creep in here. A montage juxtaposes the days of middle class children that dress for school and play with their parents and friends with those of street children who must toil and eat scraps. The story conveys that a little love and understanding can go a long way to helping a child blossom.
Arjun finds a mentor in the skating group coach, Aniket, and under his tutelage grows the wings that allow him to fly. Saqib Saleem is very easy on the eyes and extremely likable as the supportive, nurturing coach who goes through his own catharsis while instructing Arjun. However there is a superfluous love story, which could easily have been eliminated.
Hawaa Hawaai is thought provoking, delightful, charming, warm, optimistic and celebratory. But it is, in essence, an underdog story set in a sports arena. In this case, the underdog takes up inline skating and, against all odds, sets his sights on the crown.
The film is bound together by Hitesh Sonik’s score, Deepa Bhatia’s editing which follows traditional cuts rather than gimmickry, particularly in the climax, and Amol Gole’s cinematography.
But the highest praise must go to the five boys – Ashfaque Bismillah Khan (Gochi), Salman Chhote Khan (Bhura), Maaman Menon (Abdul), Thirupathi Kushnapelli (Bindaas Murugan) and Partho Gupte for their winsome and mature performances.