Director: Pradeep Sarkar
Helicopter Eela stars Kajol as a woman who doesn’t know the difference between mother and smother. She’s every teenager’s nightmare…the sort of parent who doesn’t respect boundaries, who doesn’t understand the meaning of privacy, and whose entire life revolves around her offspring. She’s a ‘hoverer’, and hence the ‘helicopter’ in the film’s title.
It’s an interesting starting point for a story, except that the story of this film doesn’t go beyond the usual clichés. Eela, the character Kajol plays, sacrificed a shot at Indi-pop stardom to start a tiffin business from home when she became a single parent. (Don’t even ask why she’s raising the kid solo – it’s one of the film’s most bizarre plot points!) Her son Vivaan (Riddhi Sen) is a good kid who somehow puts up with her ‘helicopter’ personality. It’s when Eela decides to complete her graduation by signing up for the same course he’s taking in college, that the suffocation gets serious.
Based on a Gujarati play, Helicopter Eela makes a case for women to discover their identity beyond their roles as wives and mothers. It’s a well-meaning idea, but the screenplay (by Anand Gandhi and Mitesh Shah) is driven by contrivances instead of authentic scenarios, and the conflicts never ring true.
A big part of the problem is Kajol. She’s way too intelligent and self aware to pull off a character this clueless. I never bought into the supposedly yawning generation gap between mother and son that’s meant to account for her being so out of touch with Vivaan’s feelings. That, in turn, could have something to do with the fact that she’s presented as a cool, hip, smart-talking modern mom – which, by the way, I totally bought into.
That’s perhaps why the performance doesn’t come off as convincing either. Kajol is shrill, way too animated, and exploding with nervous energy. It’s as if she doesn’t know what to do with this half-baked character and she’s dialing up the performance as a result. When she cries though in the film’s quieter portions, you’ll struggle trying to hold back your own tears.
Her chemistry with her co-star Riddhi Sen works nicely, and Sen, who won the National Award for his performance in the Bengali film Nagarkirtan earlier this year, breezes through the relatively easier role of Vivaan without much fuss.
A chunk of the film’s second half is focused on the comedy that arises out of mother and son attending class together, and while some jokes land the truth is that none of it feels particularly fresh. That’s true of the film too. You’ve seen all this before…and done better too.
I’m going with two out of five.