Movie Review: Helicopter Eela

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Pradeep Sarkar’s “Helicopter Eela” should have been called “How Not To Parent” and shown as a cautionary tale for those who think hovering perennially over their offspring is a good thing. A shrill, dated and insipid story of a co-dependent relationship between a mother and her son, the film is as enjoyable as having your mother breathing down your neck all day.

Ironically, Eela (Kajol) the protagonist doesn’t think her overly intrusive attitude is wrong. She’s everywhere – in his bedroom, checking his phone, and eavesdropping on his conversation with friends. She even lands up at his school picnic. For her, and for most Indian parents, this is de rigueur. Children are never separate from parents and do not deserve an independent identity, even if they are well into their teens.

“What privacy?” Eela scoffs when her son feebly protests. Eela’s parenting style is attributed to the fact that her husband (Tota Roy Chowdhury) abandoned her when their son was a toddler. He is convinced that, like all the men in his family, he isn’t going to live beyond his 30s. Shocked by her husband’s decision to leave home and spend what he thinks are his last years doing what he likes, Eela turns all her attention on her son, using him as her emotional anchor.

But the helicopter parenting goes a bit too far when Eela decides that the only way she can be close to her son is to join his college. She ignores her son’s protests and tries to act his age – making friends with his classmates and trying to act hep and cool, when actually, she comes across as shrill and hyperactive.

In Sarkar’s version of a college, students can choose any class they want, spend all their free time dancing in the streets, and have principals intervening on their behalf during college dance fests.

“Helicopter Eela” swings wildly between wanting to be a comedy and an emotional drama between a mother and son. And that’s a pity, because the dynamics of an Indian mother-son relationship is a subject that is rich for pickings. The constant mothering, the inability to let go and reluctance to look for worlds beyond that of a parent, are all patterns that could be used to make a larger comment on this otherwise romanticised relationship.

But Sarkar is not interested, and nor, it seems, is his leading lady. Kajol takes her screechy character and turns it two notches higher. Riddhi Sen, who plays her son Vivan, thankfully brings some semblance of calmness to the proceedings. But it is a negligible effort in a film that doesn’t have any direction to begin with.