There isn’t much evidence in history books to support the claim that director Vibhu Puri makes in Hawaizaada – that it was a Maharashtrian mulga in 1895, and not the globally acknowledged aviation pioneers, the Wright Brothers, eight years later in 1903, that flew the first airplane in history. This imagined account of that undocumented event is a well-intentioned and noble effort, but it’s also an excruciatingly long and tedious affair that left me numb and exhausted by the end.
An endearing Ayushmann Khurrana stars as Shivkar Bapuji Talpade, a school dropout who grows up to fall in love with a dancer (Besharam’s Pallavi Sharda), following which he’s kicked out of his home by his strict father. Subbaraya Shastri (Mithun Chakraborty in a hideous wig), an eccentric scientist who lives in and operates out of an abandoned ship, spots Shivkar’s potential, takes him under his wing and ropes him in to help him realize his passion project of building and flying a plane.
The Sanjay Leela Bhansali influences are apparent in virtually every scene of Hawaizaada, and it’s hardly surprising given Puri both assisted Bhansali and co-wrote Saawariya and Guzaarish. Like them, this is an over-styled film in which every prop, every curtain has been carefully and strategically placed to enhance the frame. Shot almost entirely on sets, the film fast begins to feel claustrophobic and inauthentic. That’s a shame because Puri is clearly a skilled technician. There are moments of stunning imagery, some nice moody lighting, and well-shot musical numbers. But it’s all weighed down by an indulgent script that crams too many narratives into a single plot.
There are your typical fuming British officers who want to nix Shastri and Talpade’s plane-building plans; this acts as a trigger for the film’s patriotic sideshow. The physics involved in flying a plane is sketchily addressed through repeated Vedic references, which frankly come off sounding like a lot of mumbo-jumbo. But there’s also a nice track between Talpade and his little nephew (a terrific Naman Jain), including a charming Chaplinesque interlude in which we see Talpade trying various jobs to raise money to build the plane.
Hawaizaada is jingoistic, melodramatic, naïve, and often illogical. It might have worked as a quirky flight of fancy, but Puri and his characters take things way too seriously, robbing the film of that very sense of awe and wonder that it so badly needed.
I’m going two out of five. It’s an interesting idea that never takes flight.