'Helicopter Eela' review: Kajol is charming despite the movie's shortcomings
The actress gives a solid performance which will salvage an insipid narrative.
Eela Raiturkar (Kajol) is a single mother. Her son Vivan (Riddhi Sen) is a college student who admits to feeling embarrassed and suffocated with his mother's constant scrutiny.
In case you have been wondering, just like me, about why the film is titled Helicopter Eela, here's a quick trivia. Apparently, helicopter parents are the ones who pay extra close attention to their children's lives and experiences. And that is exactly how Eela is. She is constantly reminding Vivan about his dabba (tiffin), asking him to keep his cellphone aside and give her more time, walks into his room without any consideration for his privacy and also overhears his phone conversations.
When Vivan in the heat of an argument makes a comment telling her off, it propels her to join his college to complete her education. As she sets out to explore her options, Vivan loses more of his 'me' space leading to a strain in their relationship.
As the movie traces Eela's background, we are taken back to the days of indie-pop music with cassettes of Baba Sehgal, Alisha Chinai selling at the iconic music store in Mumbai, Rhythm House. Eela who is shown modelling part time also dreams of becoming a playback singer. The movie infuses a dose of nostalgia, recreating the launch of MTV India in 1996. Watch out for Shaan, Illa Arun, Baba Sehgal, Anu Malik, Mahesh Bhatt - who are all part of Eela's journey as a singer, which is short-lived.
However, before she could make it big, she gives birth to Vivan and her life now is all about her son. Fast forward to present day, Eela is portrayed as a mother, walking the corridors of the college. Kajol is in solid form and engages us in her struggles, but sometimes they don't seem too significant.
Riddhi Sen, the 20-year-old National award-winning actor as Vivan is impressive. He depicts the anguish any youngster goes through in their adolescent phase. He is fairly reasonable, but melodramatic at times, just like his mother, as he pushes her to discover her musical roots. It is the warm mother-son equation that holds the movie together in spite of the uninspired writing. As they go through a roller-coaster of emotions, we get some heart-warming moments.
Helicopter Eela is based on the Gujarati play Beta Kaagdo by Anand Gandhi. He joins Mitesh Shah in scripting the film, which is as predictable as expected.
Neha Dhupia has become comfortable in her roles, supporting the leading ladies in her last few outings like Tumhari Sulu or Netflix's Lust Stories. Here, as the play director at the college, she flings things at people when they don't sing in the desired pitch and gives Eela the support she needs.
As Eela, Kajol goes through the transition from a struggling singer to a lover, from a new mother to a woman struggling to find her identity with ease. Although she isn't very convincing as a singer as stumbles more than once.
Despite the insipid writing, the film wins your heart in a few scenes. And all credit goes to Kajol, who is back on the screen after 2015's Dilwale. She occupies most of the screen space and demands your attention.
There are some loose ends in the film that mar its narrative. The conflicts between the son and mother resolve conveniently and Kajol gets her big live performance in the climax. The film falls into all the Bollywood trappings and seems inconsistent at times.
In the end, Helicopter Eela is a well-intentional, popcorn Bollywood masala family film that will leave you with a smile.
Director: Pradeep Sarkar
Cast: Kajol, Riddhi Sen, Neha Dhupia, Kamini Khana