Amole Gupte loves to explore his metaphors. If it was the food of love in his debut film Stanley Ka Dabba (he was also the creative director and writer of Taare Zameen Par), in Hawaa Hawaai he explores dreams on wheels.

The thing about wheels is that they can take you places. The world used to be a very different place before the wheel was invented. And Gupte reminds us that the wheel hasn’t been invented for the poor yet.

For years, women in villages in Rajasthan used to carry water on their heads and walk back home in extreme conditions. It’s only a couple of years ago, that someone decided to reinvent the wheel and came up with the WaterWheel, a device that helps them just roll a wheel-shaped water container home. Gupte has a heart that beats for children and for issues in need of attention. If it was dyslexia in Taare Zameen Par and child labour in Stanley Ka Dabba, here it is the dreams of the underprivileged child.

A rich kid’s dream is a poor kid’s fantasy. Amole Gupte sets this fairytale-like fantasy in the city of dreams. Specifically, in a parking lot. Wheels are parked there all day. But at night, the wheels come alive because children use it to practise skating. That’s where little Arjun (Partho Gupte) discovers the power of wheels. He’s fascinated by shoes that give you wings.

It’s a dream way beyond his reach, you would think. What follows is an absolutely endearing, heartwarming and inspiring tale of friendship and the power of dreams.

Hawaa Hawaai takes off where Stanley Ka Dabba left us, with the issue of child labour (that seemed slapped on to the narrative like a last minute addition). Here, Arjun has to be Raju (the chaiwala) because he is the only source of income for his family and as reluctant as his mother is (Neha Joshi is just fantastic as the conflicted mother) she has very little choice but to send him to work after the death of his father. Makarand Deshpande is mostly convincing till he goes over the top with another issue that’s slapped on at the end of this film too, a little late for any impact.

The boy has dreams but he also has friends who believe in his dreams. The children are absolutely delightful. They are the heroes of the film. All five of them – Partho, Ashfaque Bismillah Khaan, Salman Chotte Khan, Thirupathi N Kushnapelli and Maaman Memon.

While mechanic Gochi (Ashfaque) is the engineer of Arjun’s dreams, ragpicker Murugan (Thirupathi) finds the required raw materials literally out of garbage, and embroidery artiste Abdul (Maaman) gives the magic shoes their finish. The fourth boy Bhura (Salman) is a flower seller, so he brings flowers for the pooja and feels bad that he cannot contribute to the dream. We wait for him to contribute until we realise that he has already contributed. With his faith. But more than the idea, the materials, the packaging and faith, what kids need is a good teacher and this is the story of a slumdog Eklavya who learns by watching. Saqib Saleem is the skating coach who is there to catch him before he falls. Saqib once again proves what an earnest actor he is.

A lot of the drama in Hawaa Hawaai may seem predictable but it’s the treatment and storytelling that make it rise above the sports movie template. Sheer poetry.

Amol Gole’s camera captures the circles in everyday objects in almost every frame — the lunch boxes, the chai glasses, the bearings, Abdul’s glasses, the nuts and bolts and, of course, the omnipresent wheels. Editor Deepa Bhatia lends a nice touch as she sneaks in just the right transitions, even if it’s as subtle as a local train cutting through the city, carrying the dreams of hundreds of people. On wheels.

Genre: Drama

Director: Amole Gupte

Cast: Partho Gupte, Saqib Saleem, Pragya Yadav, Makarand Deshpande

Storyline: A boy who has to work at a tea-shop to support his family dreams of becoming a skating champion

Bottomline: This underdog sports film rises above the template to win hearts.