J K Wali couldn't look past this biopic's historical inaccuracies  

Until Bhaag Milkha Bhaag and Mary Kom – though both had their share of booboos – Bollywood had an uncanny record of messing up biopics, in terms of historical accuracy. While Hawaizaada continues that tradition of Indian cinema, it also brings to the forefront an important facet of modern day biopics: highlighting ‘lesser known heroes’.

Until Gandhi My Father (2007) – and Rang Rasiya (2008) – Bollywood biopics were primarily limited to renowned figures like Subhash Chandra Bose, Phoolan Devi, Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel, etc. Even though Bhaag Milkha Bhaag and Mary Kom fall into the same category, the last five years has seen a shift towards ‘unsung heroes’ with Dirty Picture (2011), Paan Singh Tomar (2013) and Shahid (2013) – all three masterpieces in their own right.

With Hawaizaada, however, Vibhu Puri went for a biopic, whose success inevitably depended on historical inaccuracy and exaggerations. While both inaccuracies and exaggerations are found in abundance in this rather lengthy (157 minutes) movie, the final product fails to justify them.

Loosely (extremely) based on the life of Shivkar Bapuji Talpade, the man credited with constructing and flying an unmanned airplane in 1895, without documented evidence, Hawaizaada is brimming over with misplaced patriotism and unnecessary romance. It also goes on to portray, and hence claim, that the first manned airplane was also flown by Talpade, before the Wright Brothers. What makes that unsubstantiated claim worse is the use of ancient scriptures as the source of scientific inventions of the late 19th and early 20th century.

Mithun Chakraborty is well-suited to the mad scientist role
Mithun Chakraborty is well-suited to the mad scientist role

Historical inaccuracies aside, what really sinks Hawaizaada is the emphasis on an equally undocumented romance in a story that should have been about a great scientific mind and visionary for India. That the movie also implies that the romance turned out to be a decisive factor in Talpade not only fulfilling his ambition, but was also crucial in achieving it, is basically the final nail in the coffin for what was supposed to be a biopic.

Yes, filmmakers all over the world take liberties in biopics, but not to the point of self-defeat.

Ayushmann Khurrana does a decent job as Shivkar Bapuji Talpade, despite occasionally unnecessarily relying on melodrama. Pallavi Sharda as Sitara, Talpade’s love interest, also is effective enough in her depiction of a dancer who tries to convince Talpade of their incompatibility. The lack of dancing talent for someone playing a dancer is again, a criminal let down.

Mithun Chakraborty as Pandit Subbaraya Shastri, Talpade’s teacher and mentor, puts together arguably the performance that makes the film worth watching at any level. The ‘mad scientist’ role fits him perfectly, and he reciprocates by doing complete justice to it.
One can see Sanjay Leela Bhansali's influence over the sets, since director Vibhu Puri has worked with Bhansali in Saawariya and Guzaarish

An important factor in biopics based in the 19th century of course is the recreation of that era. The film that is almost entirely shot in sets does put in an admirable effort. One can see Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s influence over the sets, since director Vibhu Puri has worked with Bhansali in Saawariya and Guzaarish.

The music, like much of the other segments of Hawaizaada, doesn’t leave much to write home about.

Despite the filmmakers rightly touting the movie as fictional, and the story as being ‘inspired’ from Shivkar Bapuji Talpade’s life, the liberties taken stretches beyond the realm of logic. Furthermore, the recreation of the anti-British freedom movement adds to the jingoism that crescendos with the claim that the Wright Brothers’ invention came after Talpade’s work.

Not what I would recommend for an enjoyable or intellectually stimulating weekend reprieve.