Ok. I admit it. In public. I am a Helicopter Mum. My hubby disagrees. He says I am a chopper mum- an Army Chopper one, at that! I am kinda *always* behind my kids – paani piyo, brush karo, dry fruits khao, lunchbox khatam hua, some more paani piyo, time se so jao, time se utho…the list is endless! I always take pride in the fact that I am a mum who takes tremendous care of her kids (a tad bit too much, I guess!)… Or rather I used to be…. till I watched Helicopter Eela… But more on that later, let’s talk about the movie first!

The movie had me at the opening scene, where Eela is getting dressed with ‘Pari hoon main’ playing in the background. How many of us *still* feel like a diva when this plays on FM or Gaana.com? I, for one, surely love this song even today!! Yeah, yeah, I get it; I am getting old when a 90s Sunita Rao hit makes me feel oh so sexy ? And then, the movie moves on to some usual middle class issues – sharing a cab, hailing an auto…ones which make this movie so identifiable to the masses. Eela Raiturkar, played by Kajol, is an aspiring playback singer, a wannabe in the big bad city of Mumbai who falls for a song writer, and the struggles of both resonate with many others who come to the big cities to make their dreams come true. Eela has the spunk, the talent and the panache to make it big in the world of Bollywood. She loves Baba Sehgal, gets invited to MTV awards where she hobnobs with Ila Arun and Shaan… basically transports you back to your college days. I adore the scene where she records the remix version of the playback song ‘Ruk, Ruk, ruk, arre baba ruk’ as a female lead singer, and the music director asks, ‘Kya tumne kabhi socha tha, yeh din bhi aayega? And she replies with a pluck, ‘Haan, socha tha.’ The subtle message is that those who believe in power of their dreams, achieve big things in life. Don’t be afraid to dream… and when they do come true, give yourself a pat on the back for visualising them when many believed these dreams were beyond your reach. Kudos to Pradeep Sarkar for weaving such messages beautifully in the story.

On a lighter note, I can’t help but think what a tease ‘Ruk, ruk, ruk!’ song must be in Devgn household… Kajol teasing Ajay Devgn singing the song chasing him around their bungalow, at least in my very filmy imagination!! It sure is becoming a tease in our household with 3 females of different age and sizes (that’s yours truly, and her two daughters!) following Daddy dearest singing ‘Ruk, ruk, ruk!’, and him rolling his eyes and grimacing, ‘They are definitely your daughters! You couldn’t find a cheesier song to sing!’

And then, life takes it turn in the movie. Eela wants to get married. This is despite her would be husband(Tota Roy Chowdhury) and mother-in-law ( a delightful Kamini Khanna, playing a fab Punjabi Saas!) warning her that this is not the right time in her career! Eela reminds me of an (over) confident me 10 years ago. I too fell in love, and wanted to get married straightaway, never once giving a thought that marriage or kids would come in the way of my career or achieving my dreams. On hindsight, I do not regret taking that decision. Eela soon becomes a mum, Vivaan – her son (Riddhi Sen) is born, and Eela’s life starts revolving around home and child. The director has captured few of the mom-life moments so candidly, I felt the movie was taking a leaf out of my life! They return from an outing, and the kid comes home screaming, ‘Susu aayi, Potty aayi…’ This is exactly what my lil one still does!! Susu and potty always comes when mom is eating, sleeping or stepping out of the house where she is already an hour late getting everybody ready!!! Story of my life… LOL!!

Then one day, due to an incident in the family, her husband freaks out, and walks out on the family, leaving Eela to fend for her son and herself all alone… It shows that not every single mom story is a story of abuse, but it is a story of neglect. He does love them, but wants to live life on his own terms, especially if this is the last year of his life. This isn’t fair on his family… but then life ain’t fair always, and the movie portrays this without any unnecessary blame-game. The mother in law’s role (Kamini Khanna) is so progressive at this time that she steals heart as a candid Punjabi Saas when she mouths the dialogue…’Bola tha na, sanki hain saare!’ She goes on to support her daughter-in-law, and quietly gulps her pain in a scene when Eela says she asked her husband to go away, when he returns after very many years. Hats off to Kamini Khanna, for playing this role so well! May she inspire many mother-in-laws!

Eela, struggling with demands of single-motherhood, transforms into one of those parents who want to be with their children everywhere, every time – always scared that the worst might happen if they are not around(I am not *that* mad… I do let her go to school alone :P)! I could somewhere relate coz something similar happened to me. We moved continents from UK to India when my elder daughter was just 15 months old, and I joined a full time role in one of the best brands in the world. From a 24 hour stay at home mum to my baby (I took a break when I was preggers with her), I became a high flying, travelling, 24*7 busy corporate mum. I did not expect the change to be so harsh on my daughter, as I had always aggressive as a professional, so this came naturally to me. But she started falling sick every 15 days. From being chubby-cheeked apple of everyone’s eye in the family, she became that kid who looked so weak, everyone wondered ‘Iski Ma iska khayaal nahi rakhti?’ We judge mothers real quick, don’t we?

I did not have a strong support system at the time to cope with the demands of a full-time corporate MNC role…Being a new return to work mum, I wasn’t sure what all I needed to ensure that my baby felt secure emotionally, and was well-taken care of while I was away… My hubby was coping with demands of his job change, and our child couldn’t handle with so many changes at a time. Living abroad gave us both much more time to spend with her, a luxury which few of the working parents can afford in India. Many people who have returned to India after living abroad would echo with my situation. Finally, her health started looking so bad (at least to me, her chopper mum), that I would cry myself to sleep on most nights out of sheer guilt of going to work, and leaving my child back home. I couldn’t decide what to do – should I quit my amazing MNC job which many give a limb for? Or should I be with my daughter, coz her childhood years will not come back? I sobbed heartily into my tissue when I saw the scene where she rushes from her recording studio coz she can hear her son crying in the background. On reaching home, when her help says, ‘Bachon ko to aisa hota rehta hai!’, she says, ‘Mere Vivaan ke saath nahi!’ . This was exactly the reason I quit my job back then – ‘Mere bache ke saath nahi!’

In hindsight, I feel maybe I should’ve been more patient; things might’ve worked out anyways. Maybe, maybe not… who knows. But do I regret quitting, and spending that time with my daughter? Not once. When you become a family where there is a single earning member from a double earning one, there are certain amount of material sacrifices which one needs to make in short term, but you weigh these in against real happy moments of life which you get with your child- and to me, that was priceless. I do understand that not every woman is in a situation like this… many women need to work to fend for their family. Kudos and more power to such mums who run the world!

I am proud to say today, that yes, I sacrificed those years career-wise (and am doing so now too, being a SAHM to my second daughter!) but I do not I regret it. I do have to think twice before purchasing that designer watch I have my eye one, or that bag which looks so chic, but what the heck! Also, I am really grateful to have a partner who was taking care of the financial aspect of bringing the bread to the table while I was busy being this helicopter mum… an aspect which has been well ignored in the movie. You kinda wonder where all the money is coming from for that lifestyle in Mumbai, if she ain’t working! Yes, her hubby did leave her his amount of savings, but how much! Anyways, a small glitch in an overall well-executed movie.

Eventually Eela becomes obsessed with her son… following him everywhere and anywhere… Mom and I couldn’t help chuckling in the song ‘Meri Mumma ki parchai’!! I was getting ‘You know how I feel now!’ looks from my daughter :p And yes, I *will* step back now J Eela joins the same college, and pretty much follows her son everywhere with her dabba, till one day, she crosses the line. She tells rattles conversation which was categorically told by her son in secrecy, and that’s it! He loses it, and leaves home, saying he feels too suffocated by her now. On her repeated requests to come back home, he says you have made me so central to your existence, you have lost yourself somewhere in that life! ‘Eela kahan gayi!’ he says emotionally, and hence, begins the journey of the woman’s self-discovery. She finds solace in her music, her passion, and gets admiration from not only the drama club teacher (Neha Dhupia, now that’s a sparkle of a performance! I had no idea this chick could pull off the role so well!), but also her son’s college mates (including his uber cool girl-friend!).

After a month of practicing her performance for the Inter-college talent competition, while staying away from her son, your heart breaks when she is unable to finally perform her song due to a change in rules at the last minute. Kajol’s true mettle as an actor and her brilliance shows in her body language and her expressions, as she puts up a brave face in front of everyone and asks one of the girls from troupe to perform the song. But while the girl is singing on the stage, she is seen heartbroken backstage, wiping off her make-up, which she might’ve donned after years, and walking out of the auditorium, giving one last look to the stage.

And then, it’s her son who makes things turn around. In a mother-son inside joke, Eela always corrects him when he sings the song which was supposed to be her big break with Mahesh Bhatt (a cute ‘Yaadon ki Almari’ number). He sings it real poorly, and in a pure Bollywood moment (Hell! Ones I love! I am such a drama queen!!), Kajol walks up to the stage, and owns it like a rockstar! This is such a power moment, and giving strength to any, and every return to work mum who gave up her dreams to take care of her family. Pursue your passion ladies, and success will come to you again! Dreams do come true; the universe just has different ways of playing them out! Believe in yourself, believe in your dreams, and don’t forget yourself in the myriad of life. More power to each Mum!

Kajol plays her part of the effervescent, energetic, obsessive mum with such ease, you can’t help loving her. Yes, she is over the top in many scenes… but that’s just Kajol for you! You love her in spite of her flaws! And she looks so fit for her age! She sure is an inspiration as a mum of two grown up kids! So saaxxxyyy drools the guy with the saxophone! I agree!

Overall, a delightful family watch, my mum, dad, hubby and babies enjoyed the movie as much as I did. I am glad the filmmakers are now taking a risk to bring to life stories like these- stories which are empowering for women, everyday middle-class mirrors, heart-warming, clean ones, which one can watch with the whole family. There was never once a moment in the movie where I had to cringe watching with it parents and kids thinking, oh God…where do I look now! It was a complete family movie where we laughed, cried and came out with the feeling of three hours spent well with family.

You can also read the review on Surbhi’s website https://surbhirastogi.com/2018/10/15/helicopter-eela-movie-review/