Synopsis – Eela joins her son’s college to complete her studies, complicating their relationship.
My Take – My first instinct after watching the trailer of this Pradeep Sarkar directed film was about how soon and shamelessly it had uplifted its story line from Nil Battey Sannata and this year’s Melissa McCarthy starrer, Life of the Party. However it turns out the film is instead an adaption of the Gujarati play Beta Kaagdo, and based on the concept of helicopter parenting, a term that Indian moms may not be familiar with, who upon explanation, might end up rejecting the stated term behind it. While the film aims to work as an ode to the beautiful bond between a mother and son, the lack of momentum prevents the concept from lifting off the ground and flying forth.
It could have been a bit decent if the script had covered some loose ends nicely, but Mitesh Shah and Anand Gandhi‘s screenplay is terribly flawed and all over the place. Also certain developments would leave the viewers stunned as they are rightfully senseless. Co-produced by Ajay Devgn, the film touches over various themes such as the over-imposing, annoying nature of parents; mothers giving up their careers for children; therefore mothers who make their universe about their children; children who want space, privacy and to find themselves; children turning an age where they can teach their parents a lesson or two – including ‘finding yourself’; parents being rejected by their kids; parents having to let go, each of these themes is a powerful one and very well holds a story or two for itself.
The film attempts to address all of them, but does justice only to the first theme, and tends to gets repetitive and boring. While Kajol and Riddhi Sen do a splendid job and sparked their act but there is nothing the film offers. Even the well-acted emotional scenes don’t manage to connect.
The story follows Eela Raitodkar (Kajol), a gifted singer, who gains wide popularity by performing a remixed version of an original song from an upcoming film. With her dreams coming true with a pop song next in line, she decides to get married to her boyfriend, Arun (Tota Roy Choudhury), who had a huge stake in her success. However all her dreams comes crashing down when the shoot of her song gets shelved. While the birth of her son Vivaan brings in the momentary happiness, things change when Arun fearing that he too bares the curse like other males in his family and may end up dying before the age of 40.
Fearful that his end may be near, Arun abandons Eela, Vivaan and his mother (Kamini Khanna) to fend for themselves. A heartbroken Eela eventually gives up her singing aspirations and instead decides to focus solely on raising Vivaan. But twenty years down the line, Eela has turned quite obsessive and dotes about everything on a now college going Vivaan (Riddhi Sen), who has started to feel suffocated by his lack of personal space. And in order to distract her, Vivaan convinces her to move her attention towards pursuing her former musical talents or simply complete her education. But when Eela turns up at his college as his fellow student, it puts further strains on their relationship.
The film works best when the focus is on the relationship between Eela and her son, but sadly the script doesn’t support the Kajol-Ridhi camaraderie beyond a point. And after a solid start the plot crumbles helplessly to the ground writhing down there in sheer helplessness as an opportunity to pin down a solid film on a mother-son bonding is squandered away in irrelevance, superfluousness and disharmony. For even when the things get better in the second half, we don’t really connect with Eela and Vivaan’s issues. We really never know why Vivaan is so annoyed with his mother. At first, I thought it was because he was feeling suffocated with her constant shadowing. Then he tells her that he wants Eela to return to her singing aspirations.
If that’s the case, then why did he protest initially when Eela joined his theater troupe as the lead singer, chosen by their easily irked music teacher (Neha Dhupia)? Or why he chose to leave the house over a little matter? The film doesn’t know whether to put its spotlight on the relationship or the mom’s ambitions and gets confused in the process. At the same time, there are scenes that go on and on well after the point is made and sometimes the point doesn’t seem that important either – not even in terms of adding flourish to the story or its characters.
The friction leads to a cheesily-done finale, where Eela and her group have to perform at the college fest, and a technicality prevents Eela from performing, only for things to get happily resolved with ease. But the worst part of the film is how Arun decides to leave Eela and his family for a silly reason. It is unbelievable how this bit of the script even got approved. Moreover, Eela’s education is never stressed upon initially and there was no inclination that she is not a graduate. As a result, Eela suddenly deciding to join college seems random. Post interval, the silliness continues and things continue to happen at random. In a crucial scene, Arun arrives again and one expects things to heat up. But he leaves as suddenly as he comes back. Immediately after this scene, Eela is seen singing the song ‘Oh Krishna you’re the greatest musician‘. Wonder what made the makers chose this song out of all songs. It is sure to induce unintentional laughter.
However, there are some things that director Pradeep Sarkar gets right: the millennial restlessness of Vivaan in response to his mother’s smothering, Eela’s desperate and at times ridiculous attempts to get her son to give her some time, and her inexplicable obsession over lunch boxes! The way Eela hovers and fusses over Vivaan depicts with great candor the anxiety that every mother feels over the anticipated loneliness that comes after children start going to college and becoming independent. The film also has ample tender moments that have not been overly dramatized. However like I mentioned above the film never really takes off. The main problem with the film is that it allows the drama to trump its comic potential. A little more wit and humor and a little less earnestness might have given the film the wings it wants.
What remains here is the comeback of Kajol, following her disastrous stints in the 2015 film, Dilwale and the 2017 Tamil film, Velaiilla Pattadhari 2. This one totally depends on whether you are nostalgic and missed her charm or if you always found her squeaky and over-the-top. She continues to perform the way she did, so your opinion is unlikely to change. Riddhi Sen delivers a nuanced performance as Vivan, working around the adopted Hindi and sounding almost sage-like for his age. In supporting roles, Neha Dhupia is good, while Tota Roy Choudhury is alright. The cameos by Amitabh Bachchan, Mahesh Bhatt, Ila Arun, Baba Sehgal, Shaan, Anu Malik, and Ganesh Acharya add to the star value. On the whole, ‘Helicopter Eela’ is a predictable and bewildering dramedy which despite strong performances ends up feeling long-drawn and repetitive.
Directed – Pradeep Sarkar
Rated – PG
Run Time – 135 minutes