Ever since K. Shashilal Nair’s “Ek Chhotisi Love Story” rode its controversy card to hit status, more and more Hindi directors have become willing to experiment with sexual content in their films. Sadly, few Hindi directors are genuinely concerned with artistic expression. For them, “experimenting” with sexual themes really means “exploiting” sexual themes, and no director has done a better job of proving this true than Guddu Dhanoa does in his latest film “Hawa.” “Hawa” is nothing more than a showcase of profane sexual violence, very poorly disguised as a supernatural horror film.
Dhanoa’s only commendable move in the enterprise was to rope in Tabu as the lead in the film. As a divorced mother of two who is sexually assaulted throughout the film by an offender from beyond the grave, she musters an astounding level of conviction. The empathy she evokes with her grief-stricken eyes, the paranoia she arouses with her tense body language, and the sense of fear she creates with her dialog delivery makes her sensitive performance more than forceful enough to rise above the shoddiness of the rest of the movie.
But why would an acclaimed, award-winning actress of repute ever commit herself to a production such as this one? Most likely, because the script sounded good before production began. Drawing from an 80’s Hollywood film, the script involves a divorced woman (Tabu) being sexually attacked repeatedly by a ghost. She attempts to explain her problem to others, but they believe her to be insane and ridicule her for her seemingly outrageous claims.
On paper, this may have sounded like quite an intriguing premise. Certainly, it promised a lot of scope for the lead playing the victimized woman. Perhaps with a good director, the film could have even made for a fairly interesting and engaging experience. But Dhanoa is far from a good director and, as it is, the film is about as far from engaging as possible.
Dhanoa attempts to build suspense by slowing the pace of the film down in the first half, but he only succeeds in boring audiences to tears. His film is slow but not thoughtful; deliberate but never meaningful. Very few of the sluggish and repetitive sequences in the first half have much significance. Once Dhanoa tires of this approach, he tries to scare and arouse by having his poorly animated spirit commit heinous acts of sexual violence against the vulnerable female protagonist. His lewd, exploitative portrayal of the sexual attacks is shocking and distasteful each of the umpteen times it is repeated on screen, but never anything more.
By the time Dhanoa finishes lingering over the graphic sexual violence, and attempts to add psychological and cosmological angles to the film by introducing a doctor (Shahbaaz Khan) and an exorcist (Mukesh Tiwari), the film spirals completely out of control and plunges inexorably into the depths of tedium.
To make matters worse, Dhanoa commits one of the most fatal mistakes of horror-filmmaking throughout the movie; he has every last one of his characters behave in some mysterious or peculiar manner. When nearly every person in a film acts insane, it’s only a matter of time before audiences are driven mad themselves by the travesty playing on screen.
Perhaps the most absurd thing about this film is Dhanoa’s choice of an ending; the film ends on an extremely vainglorious note for the director, leaving room for a sequel. Dhanoa should think several times before ever attempting to follow up this film; his efforts on this first installment have culminated to produce nothing more than an atrocious, B-grade, sex and gore mess.
Self-respecting moviegoers looking for quality film rather than shameful sexual exploitation should steer far clear of this compost. Investing time in this wreck is a losing proposition, through and through.