Saturday, December 5, 2015

Hawaizaada - could the first human controlled powered airplane have taken flight on the beaches of Mumbai?

A recent movie Hawaizaada tries to think of an alternative history. One in which the very first human controlled powered airplane takes flight not on the beaches near Kitty Hawk but the one in Mumbai, India. Would it have been possible for such a character to even exist in pre-independence India? Most definitely, the example of CV Raman comes to mind. Was the environment conducive for innovation? Was it the startup capital :) The very presence of a few stars gives hope for the future.

The ridicule faced by the main character when he tries to convince the Maharaja of Baroda is probably not very different from what was experienced by the people who tried to claim that the book "Vaimānika Shāstra" was a scientific treatise. While it is now established by the leading scientists of today that the book is no more than a bunch of fantasies that have no grounding in reality, one has to at the least appreciate that somebody thought of concocting such brilliant lies. The movie Hawaizaada tries to give color to the fantasies found in the book and follows the life of Subbaraya Shastry who tried to make these models with help from Dr.Talpade (who has been replaced by a school dropout in the movie) of Bombay. In reality none of these models ever worked, obviously due to their mythical nature. 

While the movie is a commendable attempt at trying to create a "new" genre in Indian Cinema, it was a box office failure which received mixed criticism, most of it being negative. This seems more of a comment on the state & taste of the Indian entertainment industry than on the quality of the movie. One can only hope that with increasing literacy and as understanding of the Jaredness of the world increases, such dreamers will flourish.