His name is Arjun Harishchandra Waghmare, but he's a modern-day Eklavya. Only this time, Dronacharya doesn't leave him in lurch and instead, does everything possible to turn him into a champ.
It's love at first sight for Arjun (Partho Gupte), who works at a tea-shop for living, as a pair of skates captures his imagination. He observes wide-eyed as the kids zoom past him (near the tea-shop), training under skating coach, Aniket Bhargava (Saqib Saleem).
He suddenly has a goal in his life. His five-member gang (one works at a car workshop, another is a garbage picker), understands him and his dream. Making the best of waste (probably a lesson in waste management), they make a pair of Hawaa Hawaai (skates) with the help of a car workshop's engineer.
How Arjun gets Bhargava to coach him and ultimately turn into a district-level champion is a story that wins hearts, thanks to the flawless and effortless storytelling by Amole Gupte.
Gupte speaks less with words and more with visuals. He tells stories within a story and leaves a lot to imagination. Child labour is something which continues to bog us down as a society. A street urchin being thrown out of the building by a watchman and a child servant taking an interest in studies are only some of the haunting visuals that stay with you. These fleeting moments have no connection with the flow of the narrative, but they make you think.
Another scene which is truly fascinating is a dream sequence where Arjun actually flies, as his dead father (Makrand Deshpande) looks on. This comes right after Arjun discovers his passion for skating.
Among the issues that Amole Gupte subtly raises in his film is lack of medical facilities in rural areas. When Arjun's father has a heart attack, there is not a single doctor in the hospital.
Gupte tries a love angle, probably for the first time in his career, in one of the sub-plots. Saqib Saleem, the coach, falls for a theatre actor (Pragya Yadav), who does not support her own brother when she comes to know he is in the wrong. Their romance, however, is subtle and grows naturally.
The film doesn't have a single dull moment even as it moves at a leisurely pace in the first half. It has a dreamy quality to it, which gets enhanced by the excellent cinematography. The film picks up pace in the second half and stops only occasionally for a breather.
The most powerful sequence of the film comes towards climax when Arjun finds himself fighting with the ghosts of the past, in the middle of a race. After Stanley Ka Dabba, the National Award-winning child actor Partho surprises with his range in the film.
Amole Gupte's Hawaa Hawaai is not just the story of a skating champion, it's the story of a huge divide between rich and poor, and it is also the story of underprivileged kids who are told not to dream.
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