Director: Pradeep Sarkar
Cast: Kajol, Riddhi Sen, Tota Roy Choudhury, Neha Dhupia
I gave up taking notes midway through Helicopter Eela. The director stopped trying long before that. The writers – one of whom is Anand Gandhi, the director of Ship of Theseus, on whose Gujarati play this film is based, and who was at one point heavily associated with this week’s other release, Tumbbad – had given up at a precise moment. This is the moment they made a man leave his wife and kid and waltz out of their lives because he is afraid of…dying before the age of 40?
I’ve heard of many unreasonable splits in my years, but this has got to be the most ingenious way of hinting that the wife was just an overbearing, over-raucous and suffocating human being. He sees his family tree, they’re all dying between 35 and 40, and so he packs his bags and vamooses, leaving behind a single mother whose abandonment issues become so acute that she decides to use her relationship with her son as a surrogate for all the attention/affection she has missed. She senses his arrival, a la Jaya Bachchan in K3G, and opens the door before he has the chance to take out his keys. She ditches her playback career – one in which we see the 40-something actress play the 23-year-old version (by changing wardrobes) who interacts with allegedly younger versions of indie-pop stars like Shaan, Baba Sehgal, Shibani Kashyap, and even Anu Malik and the omnipresent Mahesh Bhatt.
A remix of “Ruk Ruk Ruk” makes her a star, even though she looks like she is merely mimicking an electronic voice with the aura of a tipsy karaoke singer in her living room. She even joins the son’s college for no good reason, only so that commercial Hindi cinema can continue to exploit Mumbai’s famous St. Xavier’s College, my college, by populating it with hashtag-wielding rejects from a teeny-bopper fashion show.
Also, can someone please write a long column on how Indian screenwriters can’t for the life of them figure out how to integrate social media patterns into their scripts? Using the words ‘epic,’ ‘bro’ and having tweets and YouTube comments pop up across the screen between cutaways of random Indians reacting across the city as soon as something “viral-worthy” takes place – like, say, a mildly unhinged mother singing with her fed-up son on stage – is not how this generation rolls.
No amount of notes can rescue a film critic when his favourite Hindi movie actress from the ‘90s turns in a performance so painful, so singularly hammy and greedy and over the top, that an entire cinema hall sighs in relief for the eight seconds she isn’t on screen. What happened to Kajol? Have I grown up, or is she just out of practice? I understand that she is meant to play an annoying, nagging, over-possessive and obsessive character – but must she act even when nobody is watching? There are so many scenes in which Eela on her own has to be awkward, clumsy, nervous, even goofy. Yet, Kajol interprets all of them as irritating – her son, the students, shared cab passengers, her husband (no wonder he left) and, most of all, ticket-buying viewers. It’s almost as if Eela is brought up on reruns of Kajol’s Chandni-Chowk act from K3G, and she internalizes it to such an extent that poor son Vivaan (Riddhi Sen) has to alternate between being her Rahul and her Poo.
Either way, Helicopter Eela is one of the most clueless, boring and unintentionally Oedipal films of our times. If there is a sequel, it might be about the murderous equation between clingy Eela and her feisty daughter-in-law. Or about how Vivaan’s girlfriends leave (or…disappear) because of his mother. Actually, forget I said that. Forget everything. Life is too short. Or at least that’s what a wise man once said, before ditching his wife.