In Pradeep Sarkar’s Helicopter Eela, Kajol is an over-involved single mother who decides to complete her education on her son’s suggestion. Riddhi Sen’s Vivan hopes the pursuit will help get his mother off his back, but to his dismay, she ends up becoming his classmate. Also starring Neha Dhupia and Tota Roy Chowdhury, the film was released on Friday.
Helicopter Eela joins a long list of movies that sends adults back to school, with comedic or dramatic results.
An early example is Blake Edwards’s High Time (1960), a 51-year-old millionaire restaurateur gets a second chance at a higher education when he joins college, much to the horror of his snobbish children. Despite the age difference, Harvey Howard (Bing Crosby) manages to fit right in, but risks losing his newfound popularity after he falls in love with a professor.
In Alan Metter’s Back To School (1986) another wealthy but uneducated man (Rodney Dangerfield) goes back to college after he learns that his reclusive offspring (Keith Gordon) is having a tough time there and is on the brink of dropping out. Thornton Melon bribes his way into his son’s college, pays others to do his assignments for him and has a gala time till her belatedly realises that getting a college degree involves more work than he bargained for.
Farah Khan’s debut feature Main Hoon Na (2004) takes the back-to-school concept and adds a military operation and Indian family values to the equation. Army Major Ram Sharma (Shah Rukh Khan) is forced to go undercover and go back to college to protect his boss’s daughter, Sanjana (Amrita Rao). There, he befriends Laxman Sharma (Zayed Khan), who is his half-brother but doesn’t know it yet.
Though he invites a few unwelcome stares and giggles in the beginning, Sharma charms his way past the generation gap, while also finding love in his second run at college.
American buddy-cop film, 21 Jump Street (2012), starring Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill, also involves an undercover operation but trades melodrama for bawdy comedy. Policemen Morton Schmidt and Greg Jenko are given a chance to relive their adolescence when they are forced to go undercover to contain the spread of a new drug at a high school by posing as students. The duo put on their freshmen hats in 2014 sequel 22 Jump Street.
In Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari’s Nil Battey Sannata (2015), a single mother joins school to help her child. Fifteen-year-old Apu struggles with her subjects and does not enjoy studying. Her mother (Swara Bhasker), who works as a domestic help, wants her daughter to get an education so that she can have brighter prospects. She decides to join her daughter’s school so that she can help her with her subjects. The film was remade in Tamil as Amma Kanakku (2016) and in Malayalam as Udaharanam Sujatha (2017).
The most recent film on this subject, Melissa McCarthy’s Life of The Party (2018), also puts mother and daughter in the same institute, but towards a different end. McCarthy is a recently divorced homemaker who decides to join her daughter’s college to reinvent herself. Education takes a backseat as parties, frat boys and girlfriends form the crux of her college experience.