She is getting ready, grooming to the 1997 chart buster ‘Paree Hoon Main’ sung by Suneeta Rao, it’s the same year when GUPT was released and Kajol stunned the world as Isha Diwan and went on to create a record by becoming the first woman in Filmfare Award history to receive the best villain award. It’s 21years and still Kajol’s charm on screen is a million bucks and the nostalgia is strikingly spot-on in her latest, helmed by Pradeep Sarkar (PARINEETA, MARDAANI previous achievements). Does Pradeep Sarkar succeed in creating the magic with Kajol as lead in this on-screen adaptation of Anand Gandhi’s Gujarati play – Beta Kaagdo – based on the issues of generation gap and parenting?!. Let’s find out.
First things first, the issue of possessive/overprotective parents, is such a time bomb that can explode at any time. Generation gap and the conflict of ideas between teens and their over controlling parents is nothing short of a masterstroke and Pradeep Sarkar opens HELICOPTER EELA with the right note, a 40 around Eela (Kajol) joins the college, it’s her first day. After a pleasantly teasing banter with a student in her classroom, her classmate Vivaan (Riddhi Sen) introduces her as his mother. Naturally, the audience in general is now hooked with this unusual scenario where a mother is sharing the same classroom as a student with her son and those whose journey of cinema surpasses the so called mainstream zone, get a flash of Ashwini Iyer Tiwari’s sweet little gem – NIL BATTEY SANNATA (mother and her child going to the same school/college) that provided Swara Bhaskar her best acting shot till date.
As the audience is ready for the next scene between Eela and her son Vivaan, it’s a sudden ‘rukh rukh rukh’ flashback that takes us back to the 90’s when we see a young budding singer Eela waiting at a bus stop for her boyfriend Arun (Tota Roy Choudhury) beneath an advertisement hording that has Eela as the model. Why this sudden jump and eagerness to tell the back story of Eela, Mr Sarkar, why this non linear technique, is it a mystery, thriller?.. anyways, Eela is a budding singer and she turns into a single-hit-wonder by singing the remix version of the 90s number Ruk Ruk Ruk from the movie VIJAYPATH, the song originally filmed on Ajay Devgan and Tabu is sung by Alisha Chinai. The flashback continues and how Vivaan becomes Eela’s only aim in life as music takes a backseat and husband Arun suddenly leaves his family alone for a weird zest that comes from nowhere.
Vivaan grows up and the monitoring of Eela multiplies, only when Vivaan starts feeling the dominance of his mom over his life and feels the suffocation, the movie gets its beats right. In order to get ‘space’ Vivaan suggest Eela to pursue her education or music and Eela decides to join his son’s college and to add further woes and more spy camera in Vivaan’s life, Eela lands up as the classmate of Vivaan. Rest is how Eela and Vivaan come to terms with each other, come to a better understanding and how Eela gets her passion for music back.
From the observation on the constantly growing generation gap between teens and their parents, to the coming-of-age saga and to finding a purpose and following your dreams, Pradeep Sarkar’s Eela is an aerial, penthouse view of the core relevant issue, it gets an introduction then fades only to come later, it may have aged but fails to grow up to the demands, the observation remains aerial/penthouse and fails to dig in deep. Adding further chutney and chilli ketchup to the woes, some surreal characterizations and blunders make it appalling. The character of father Arun played by Tota Roy Choudhury is unpredictable and unconvincing. There is no proper establishment to his sudden fear and why does he comes back?. If his coming back was the idea to establish that touchy scene between Eela and Vivaan then it could have been done without the physical presence of Arun.
No doubt, Pradeep Sarkar and his team of writers Mitesh Shah (story, screenplay and dialogues) along with Anand Gandhi create some gem of individual moments like Eela (Kajol) making her son talk to a distant relative who has suffered a loss, Vivaan who hardly knows the person is reluctant to speak but after some persuasion, he talks and the moment when the call ends is priceless. When Eela receives her first praise at a recording studio, When Vivaan realizes what his mother did to his friend was right and when the ecstatic Eela on finding her shot to fame song as a question on Mr. Bachchan’s KBC is a easy question considering the price money and the response after that – heartfelt, touchy and emotional to the core.
But what about the rest 1+ hour where we wanted to experience the understanding of the generations, how the overprotective mother and the frustrated young son start thinking from the other side, why to hold to the cliché mundane tiffin box obsession of Eela since Vivaan’s school days to college, agree that for a parent a child will remain a child but here the core idea of the generation gap gets shrunked into a onetime meal that can be stored in a tiffin – how routine… the movie lacks confrontation of values, it’s such a mish mash of coming of age tale that is grounded on the reality of generation gap/over protective parenting that always wants to flirt with situations coming out of the standard, safe and used mould.
Kajol holds the film on her shoulder right from the first frame till the very end, she is terrific and the actress has not lost her charm.
Riddhi Sen as Vivaan is very realistic and convincing, his chemistry with his mom Eela is the highlight. Tota Roy Choudhury is good but his character is weakly written. Neha Dhupia seems to be coming out from the sets of TUMHARI SULU , but she is good in any case. Zakir Hussain didn’t get much scope. Kamini Khanna as Eela’s mother-in-law is brilliant, watch her in that telephonic conversation with Eela regarding her son. Brilliant. Cameos by Amitabh Bachchan, Mahesh Bhatt, Ila Arun, Baba Sehgal, Shaan, Anu Malik, Ganesh Acharya, etc. add nostalgia.
The movie is rich in looks but technically it suffers a major blow in the editing department. Dharmendra Sharma’s editing is not in sync, this may be intentional or by suggestion by the director but it hampers the story telling. The idea of adapting a non linear technique backfires over here. Amit Trivedi’s music is apt as per the requirement but nothing of take home quality. Rukh Rukh is used to good effect. ‘Mumma Ki Parchai’ goes well when one is watching. ‘Yaadon Ki Almari’ is soothing. Daniel B George’s background score is fine. Sirsha Ray’s cinematography is pleasant. Madhu Sarkar and Bhavani Patel’s production design is rich. Costumes by Radhika Mehra, Shubha Mitra and Punam Mullick are attractive.
There is a scene in a movie when an emotionally disturbed Eela begins playing a number on the piano – ‘O Krishna, you are the greatest musician of all’ from the 1992 movie MEERA KA MOHAN, the song is inspired from Bappi Lahiri’s number ‘Krishna Dharti Pe Tu Aaja’ from the sensational DISCO DANCER starring Mithun da is actually a plagiarized version of The Tielman brothers, ‘Jesus’ track. Ironically, the scene turns out to be unintentionally funny, Pradeep Sarkar may have attempted to showcase the sorrow of Eela and unstable mind but just couldn’t get it through to the audience concerned in spite of the right intentions.
Fortunately, HELICOPTER EELA doesn’t entirely falls prey to directors intentions going wrong, the brilliance of Kajol and good support of Riddhi Sen with those above mentioned movements make ‘Eela’ rotate the wings of the ‘helicopter’ with a smile at least if not able to take the sky it desired. Going with an extra for the motherhood, Kajol and those moments.