Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Movie Review: Taare Zameen Par

I wasn't really sure what to expect about Taare Zameen Par, Aamir Khan's directorial debut. I knew it was about kids and I liked it's songs, again an excellent job by the trio of Shankar, Ehsaan & Loy.

But the movie was really good. I mean, really, really good. He has taken on a topic that's taboo in India and that too head on - the topic of a child's education in India. I grew up in a family of teachers. My dad, my mom, aunts, uncles & even my cousins are teachers. So I know what parental and competitive pressure mean :).

Taare is about a kid named Ishaan (fantastically portrayed by Darsheel Safary) who's always distracted and never good at his academics. He gets bullied by his classmates and his playmates. He is both forgetful and absent minded. Excellent camera work shows how his mind wanders around while in class. I wasn't too sure why the 'dyslexia' angle was needed as I thought it could deflect the real issue of parental and peer competitive pressure that's so rampant in India. Anyways, the kid gets himself ejected from the 'regular' school and angers his dad who promptly puts him in a boarding school.

Oh yeah, the kid has got a brother who's like super-brilliant. I know that feeling, too. My younger sister was super-brilliant herself and she learnt (riding a bicycle, hindi, typewriting etc) extra curricular things before I did and every one around me used to tell me 'Your elder sister knows how to do X, how come you don't know?' I was furious because (a) she's my younger sister and (b) why do I have to learn things that she does?. But in this movie, the elder brother is shown to be caring and genuinely loving. But I thought they could have explored more on how Ishaan felt about his 'dada'.

Then, Aamir comes in - not a forceful entry but a very fluent one. He's the "temporary" teacher who believes as the movie's tag line says 'every child is special'. He also happens to spot the dyslexic behavior in Ishaan right away as he himself had experienced it as a child growing up. Sometimes that's all it takes for a kid to have a bright future. That one teacher could make the difference between success and failure in life. I liked how they showed Ram Shankar Nikumbh took personal interest in Ishaan and pled his case with the principal and was able to treat him special. I've had a few such teachers myself in my student life who've been crucial in making who I'm.

The rest of the movie is about how Ram makes Ishaan realize his true potential and makes the parents realize the mistakes they have been making. Some of the dialogue exchanges between Ram and Ishaan's dad were powerful and touching. I hope parents in India watch this movie and realize that not every child can be first in their class and give them time to figure out what they're good at and let them pursue it. Although, in middle class indian families, it's going to be near impossible for that to happen. I know first hand, in a lot of families I know, parents want their son/daughter to become a doctor or a professional. Self development requires financial backing a lotta patience which are hard to find in middle class families.

Back to the movie, brilliant acting by the child actor Darsheel Safary, very effortless acting and non-intrusive directing by Aamir. Very efficient use of colors and location. And those kids - and there are a lot of them - are charmers.

An absolute must-see movie and probably the best movie I have seen in a while. I was able to relate to a lot of things that happened in the movie and reminisce. I'm sure you will too.