Direction: Pradeep Sarkar
Producers: Ajay Devgn Films , Pen India Limited , Eros International
Cast: Kajol, Riddhi Sen, Tota Roy Chowdhury, Neha Dhupia, Zakir Hussain
MOVIE REVIEW : HELICOPTER EELA
Helicopter Eela Story: Based on a Gujarati play ‘Beta, Kaagdo’, Helicopter Eela is the story of a single mother, who makes her son’s well-being, the only purpose of her life. But will she end up losing herself and her son in this relentless pursuit.
Helicopter Eela Review: Sunita Rao’s lilting ‘Pari Hoon Main’ playing on radio welcomes you to the world of Eela Raiturkar (Kajol). A budding singer of the 90s, she doesn’t live in the past, but her world now revolves around her 20-year-old son Vivaan (Riddhi Sen). She follows him around in the real and virtual world; all the way to his college, where she turns up as a fellow student, too.
It’s an exciting premise and director Pradeep Sarkar sets the stage for a generational confrontation right at the beginning. However, he chooses to spend the first half taking us back into the good ol’ nineties, where Indie Pop ruled music charts and Baba Sehgal’s raps were a rage.
In the first half, writers Anand Gandhi and Mitesh Shah convey the ups and downs in the life of a young couple (Kajol and Tota Roy Chowdhury) with conviction. The film stays on course with light banter between the characters and the story progresses consistently without much melodrama. A fun soundtrack by Amit Trivedi, with quirky lyrics, also adds to the momentum.
Kajol hits all the right notes, be it as a singer on the cusp of hitting super stardom, or as a doting mother. She lights up the screen with an effortless charm. Tota Roy Chowdhury adequately pitches in as her supportive partner. However, there is a visible lack of chemistry between the two. National Award-winner Riddhi Sen, who is acclaimed for his performances in Bengali cinema, pulls off the emotional scenes with finesse, but his comic timing could have been better. Neha Dhupia performs well in her limited role, too. But the film belongs to Kajol, who dominates every frame. Her portrayal of a single mom’s love for her only child is convincing, enduring and deserves applause.
In the second half, director Pradeep Sarkar often comes close to giving wings to his protagonist, but that doesn’t happen till the very end. During this half, the mother joins the son in college and there’s ample opportunity for comedy, but that doesn’t ever play out. While the mother-son conflict is the core of the story, their confrontational scenes become a tad too repetitive.
Overall, Helicopter Eela is a fun ride that manages to land safely despite some turbulence. Watch this simple and endearing tale of motherly love with your mom in tow.
Our overall critic’s rating is not an average of the sub scores below.
Critic’s Rating: 3.5/5
Movie Review: Helicopter Eela
At the most emotional moment of this film, a defiant and teary-eyed Kajol strides up to the piano. Her character Eela is a musician and an instrument therefore appears like a natural place for her to vent, though her choice of song is utterly confounding. So far in the film we have heard the singer perform a Ruk Ruk Ruk remix and other Hindi tracks, but now she breaks into an impassioned and nearly off-key song in English, something that goes ‘O Krishna, you are the greatest musician of this world.’
Helicopter Eela starts with a girl who admires Baba Sehgal — I’m extremely on board with a heroine like that, I must say — who goes on to make something of herself as a singer, even if that something is a trivia question on Kaun Banega Crorepati. “Amitabh Bachchan took my name thrice,” she exults, enjoying the attention only as long as it doesn’t get in the way of the way she opens her front door before her approaching, college-going son can turn the handle. Her ear and senses are cocked for his arrival. Eela Raiturkar has chosen the career of an over-involved mother. She is a helicopter parent, hence the film’s title, and she doesn’t want to even try cutting the apron strings. Her son is all hers.
Director Pradeep Sarkar has lucked out with his heroine. Kajol is full of verve, and her enthusiasm is infectious even when her intensely eager character comes across as too chirrupy. She is embraced as a singer and applauded by stars of the 90s, all playing themselves, from Baba Sehgal and Mahesh Bhatt to Ila Arun, who is struck by the coincidence that this Eela has a husband named Arun. One day, Arun gets superstitious about a statistic and loses his head with paranoia, leaving Eela and their young child to fend for themselves.
This understandably makes Eela too protective, a different kind of paranoia. She fusses constantly over her son, smothering him, and it surprises me how rarely this subject has been tackled in Indian cinema given how many parents dictate their children’s lives. Being a tiger or helicopter parent often becomes a point of pride, and there is much to be said here — but we must wait for a better film to say it. Sarkar’s film is too melodramatic and long drawn out to hold any impact.
The true highlight is Neha Dhupia playing a college drama teacher who throws things at those who annoy her — she misses on purpose — and spends most of her time angry-snacking. She sits back in her chair like a genuine goonda, and later even channels Dr Strangelove when she insists that she doesn’t want too much drama in the drama club. I’d watch a film about this character any day.
Helicopter Eela also claims to be a comedy, though most of the humour is inadvertent. Kajol goes up to girls studying in a Mumbai college and asks if they live in Mumbai, and goes to record her songs in a studio given the disarmingly honest name of Autotune. There are a couple of fun bits — a nosy neighbour who perpetually watches television, Kajol being shoved aside on a 90s red-carpet because people want to see (the ageless) Shaan — but this is basically the kind of film that believes saying “LOL” out loud counts as a joke.
The idea of Kajol being too boisterous for a library is easy to accept, and the actor takes the role seriously enough to make Eela believable. The film doesn’t work as hard, with college students using volumes of the World Book for research, and a young man with a thickly Bengali accent playing Eela’s half-Maharashtrian, half-Punjabi son. In a throwback to Kuch Kuch Hota Hai’s infamously unplugged electric guitars, Kajol even conquers a stadium with a song without needing a microphone. This Mommy may not know best, but she sure knows loudest.
Movie Review: Helicopter Eela
A doting mum and her resigned-to-it son are the focus of Helicopter Eela, in which said Eela helicopters around Vivaan to the extent of smothering him. Will they grow up and out of each other?
This is a Bollywood movie, so that question is redundant. But the answer, which unravels over two and half excessively long hours, is so devoid of interest, that you feel like shutting down almost as soon as the film starts.
That Indian mommies, especially those who have had to stand in for absent papas, are the kind who track their offspring at every physical step, and online post, literally counting every breath they take, and every tiffin box they lose, is a well-known fact.
That Kajol is capable of single-handedly lifting a movie, and lighting up the screen, is another. But Helicopter Eela is so saddled with banal story-telling, stretched sub-plots and exaggerated performances, including and especially from the lead actress, that it never really takes off.
Getting the mother to finish a degree in the same college, and worse, the same class, as her son, is reminiscent of Nil Battey Sannata, in which Swara Bhaskar’s character goes to school with her daughter.
The difference here is that the initial bits of the film hark back to the 90s, because Eela’s desire to become a singer needed the background of an era when Indi-pop was at the top, and when director Sarkar was delighting us with sparkling music videos. But the need to show Kajol in a perky younger avatar, hanging out in studios with famous film directors and musician husband (Roy Chowdhury, completely at sea), makes the film meander.
Sen, who won a National award this year, is about the only one who stands out. The climax, featuring a rousing song, created under the baton of outspoken college teacher (Dhupia), wakes you up somewhat: why couldn’t the rest of the movie hit these high notes?
Movie Review: Helicopter Eela
Based on celebrated Gujarati play Beta Kaagdo by Anand Gandhi, Helicopter Eela is an ode to both motherhood and womanhood. Worrying is a prerequisite for every mother. They never stop worrying even for a moment. Sometimes it becomes obsessive but there is always a reason for such obsession. It’s hard for mothers to let go, to start living life for their own selves. That’s the film’s message. That for their own growth, parents need loosen the strings tied to their children and just let life be.
Eela (Kajol) is talented singer married to copywriter husband Arun (Tota Roy Chowdhury). She’s a mother of young son, and looks poised for great things. But at around that time, a cousin’s death pushes Arun into a mid-life crisis. He decides to leave his wife and child to find himself. That means Eela has to fend for her son alone. She lets go of her singing career and opens a dabba business, and becomes increasingly possessive as her son grows up. When Vivaan (Riddhi Sen) is in college, she decides to join it herself to finish her education. Vivaan has enough of the suffocation and tells her so. He wants her to make something of her own life and pushed to the wall, she decides to take stock of herself and starts on a journey of self-discovery.
Since it’s a comedy the treatment is kind of over the top but the issues Helicopter Eela raises are serious indeed. That parents too need to re-examine their lives and push for betterment is a new concept in Bollywood and one that should be welcomed. We’re all helicopter moms and dads and seriously have to stop roving around our children all the time.
The film serves ‘90s nostalgia with a shovel.
A must watch scene is recreating the launch of MTV India in 1996. Watch out for Shaan, Ila Arun, Baba Sehgal, and Anu Malik living it up at the party. Mahesh Bhatt makes a cameo as himself and Alisha Chinoy is cast as singer Anita, whose Ruk ruk ruk gets remixed by Eela and makes her famous. It’s original songs, in particular the comic Mummy ki parchai and the emotional Yaadon ki almari work as well. Kudos to lyricist Swanand Kirkire and composer Amit Trivedi for that.
The film rests on Kajol’s reliable shoulders. As Eela, she does everything that’s required for the film. She makes the years roll away as a frothy teenager in the first half and gets her expressions right as a Tiger Mom later on. Riddhi Sen matches her histrionics in every frame they are together and it’s their mother-son chemistry which makes the film believable. Toto Roy Chowdhury makes the most of his underwritten role and Neha Dhupia offers support as the sassy drama teacher.
Watch the film for some fierce acting by Kajol, who given her enormous talent should be getting more author-backed roles. Take your parents along as well – both parties might learn a thing or two…