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Helicopter Eela review: Banal storytelling is the downfall of this Kajol-starrer

Release Date: 12 Oct 2018 / Rated: U / 02hr 09min

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Suparna Thombare

Pradeep Sarkar's film about a single mother's rediscovery of herself, beyond her maternal duties, fails to engage the viewer.

Banal storytelling and contrived sequences mar Pradeep Sarkar's mother-son tale Helicopter Eela, originally a Gujarati play Beta Kagdo, written by Anand Gandhi.

Kajol stars as Eela Raiturkar, a mother who has raised son Vivaan (Riddhi Sen) single-handedly after husband Arun (Tota Roy Chowdhury), freaked out that men in his family die young, bails out and disappears to live out what he presumes will be his last days. A little insight into Arun's character would have helped add context to why he would just take off and not show his face to his family for years.

Eela decides to live for her son and forget her singing aspirations (she was on the brink of a break when she got married). But taking on the duties of both father and mother gets too much for her and the fear that Vivaan would eventually leave her drives her to become a smothering mother. She lands up at his school picnic and stays by the door to open it every time he gets back home. 

Vivaan, now a teenager, begins to feel suffocated. And as he grows up and wants a life beyond his 'mumma', she decides to land up at the same college in the same class as her son, something we saw done very effectively in Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari's Nil Battey Sannata (2016).

Surely, a lot of single mothers will identify with Eela's turmoil to let go off her son as he grows up and find a life beyond their offspring and rediscover themselves. Some of the college scenes and the banter also bring a smile to your face, but they never quite engage you fully.

Overall, the treatment seems off. Neither does it do justice to the comic portrayal of a typical Indian mother who is obsessed with dabbas (lunchboxes) and goes through your drawers in your absence, nor does it delve fully into the emotional complexities.

The bits where Eela obsesses about her son feel overdone. Good thing the son grew up to be a normal teenager despite constantly being the centre of his mother's attention.

Almost the entire first half of the film is a banal flashback to the 1990s when Indie-pop was all the rage, and by the time you are back to the present-day mother-son story, it is too late. The idea of the flashback was to offer background to Eela's singing aspirations, but Sarkar makes it so long and dull that you are not interested in it anymore.

While Kajol engages you with her infectious on-screen energy and a free-flowing performance, she also spoils it in several scenes by overdoing the chirpiness of her character. 

Tota Roy Choudhary tries his best with whatever he has been handed. Riddhi Sen shows a lot of maturity in the emotional scenes and displays good comic timing in the funny ones.

The climax somewhat ressurects the film from its banality when it touches upon the emotional connection and evoluton of the mother and the son. It ends on a convenient note, though the musical sequence does lift your spirits somewhat. 

It is sorely disappointing how a potentially good script has been turned into an uneven screenplay. This is Pradeep Sarkar's weakest film, and a lost opportunity to delve into the complexity of a single parent's relationship with his/her child as the child grows up and want to fly.

Watch the film's trailer below:


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