Saturday, October 12, 2013

Bollywood Essentials: Taare Zameen Par

As the name of this post suggests, this series is basically about some of the best movies Hindi cinema has to offer. As a film lover and someone who has grown up watching these movies, I want to give the glimpse of my world to everyone else who hasn’t yet been initialized to it or is under the impression of it being nothing more than glitzy, glamorous and random song and dance sequences(Believe me, it is really not THAT random. After a while, your honed senses can easily hear them coming. Now whether they are needed is a whole different ball game). I would be the first one to admit that some personal bias is bound to sip in as most of the movies I have covered so far are personal favourites but there are many more movies that I might like but certainly won’t call essential. Movies covered here certainly have some kind of “it” factor that goes beyond just being a movie I like and makes them a good sample case for whole industry. And believe me, I eventually do intent to venture into that part of the savannah I personally like to call a ‘2001: A Space Odyssey Category’ but you might have to wait a while for that because this time it is yet another personal favourite.

Taare Zameen Par(2007) is actor Aamir Khan’s first and so far only directorial effort. It is a story of 8 year old dyslexic kid Ishaan. Being dyslexic he is otherwise a very normal kid, even excels in arts but can never concentrate on his studies at school. His brother Yohan is a school genius who always tops at everything and constant comparison by everyone makes the matters only worse for Ishaan. Unfortunately, even his parents think of his genuine problem as an excuse of getting away from everything. They think of him as lazy kid who needs to be punished and straightened out so that he can follow the footsteps of his brother and be a good boy. After doing everything they can to no avail, they decide to send him to boarding school in Panchgani as an ultimate punishment. A visiting drawing teacher in his boarding school Ram Shankar Nikumbh, being dyslexic as a child himself, finally understands Ishaan’s predicament and tries to help him. But being punished constantly for something he just cannot help, being given an impression of an unwanted child especially by his dominating father, Ishaan has gone into his own shell that even Ram finds difficult to break, at least initially.

One of the reasons why I think of this as an essential watch is it stars a kid in the central role but it is as far away from being a kid’s movie as possible. It comments about something very serious like dyslexia and still is inherently about that boy or any other kid his age that can just as easily be going through something very similar, especially in a society like Indian society where any kid is considered good for nothing if he cannot get good marks in school. I cannot remember another Hindi film that even attempts doing so. Even the way parents, more specifically his father, are portrayed in it is worth looking into in it because unfortunately this is very common. Their intentions aren’t wrong and it is obvious that they love their kid but like many other dads, his father believes in being hard on him is for his own good. In 99 out of 100 cases, that might be true but he fails completely in recognizing this is that 1 rare case and keeps on hammering it on him until someone else points it out to him.

In Hollywood, there are stars and there are actors. And then, there is a rare breed of stars who are actors as well. Bollywood or any other industry for that matter is no different. Here there are stars that can make or break movies just by attaching their name to it but are more concerned about their image than anything else. Then there are actors who have made it a habit of taking the less travelled paths and for that, more power to them. And then there is Aamir Khan who has every bit of star power as anyone else in whole industry but also has made it a point of straying from the beaten down path. It is rather fortunate that in the recent years Ranbir Kapoor seems to be following the same path and hopefully he will continue to. Aamir khan, often criticized for ghost directing his films and hailed as Mr. Perfect for demanding every detail to be to his satisfaction, directs this film with creative vision and sensitivity that thrives it. Taare Zameen Par could have gone down the sappy, over preachy slide very easily but he also deserves credit for knowing where to stop, though there are couple of instances he indulges in longer than absolutely necessary.

Ishaan Awasthy is played by a child actor Darsheel Safari who made his acting debut in this film. Amol Gupte, who also deserves a lot of credit for doing a fabulous job with dialogue and screenplay of the film and is also credited as a creative director as he developed this idea initially, chose Darsheel after auditioning a lot of boys by asking them what will they do if they could bunk their school for one day? He chose Darsheel because he had just the right amount of mischief in his eyes to play this role and it is so easy to see that as he fits naturally in this role. Aamir Khan also plays the role of Ram Shankar Nikumbh with a great poignancy that this kind of role needs. Everyone in the rest of the cast plays their parts well; however one that stands out to me is Vipin Sharma playing Ishaan’s father. Once again it is an example of great casting as even his face tells a lot about how his character is supposed to be.

Let us talk a little about songs too. I want to do this for two reasons but first a little background. I have always been a supporter of songs in Hindi cinema because that is something so unique about it, something you don’t see in any other industry. And Taare Zameen Par is one of those films that actually uses them well to aid the actual story. However typically these songs are playback songs; that is they are sung by someone else and acted on the screen by someone else. The first of two reasons I went through all this trouble is TZP has only one such song, all the others, even though are fully fledged songs written exclusively for this film, are more like soundtracks we see in Hollywood and I think that is a good experiment.

Second and probably the most important reason is one of those tracks titled ‘Maa(Mother)’, written by Prasoon Joshi and sung by Shankar Mahadevan – another personal favourite. That song is so beautifully written and even better sung that it strikes every cord in my heart just right. I have only listened to that song in its entirety once, in theater, and I will not, I cannot listen to it again. Even in the theater my eyes were so full of tears that I practically do not remember the video of this song. In all probability, I will never be able to listen this song again but I’ll always love it with every fiber of my being.

Obviously Taare Zameen Par is an emotional journey to get through but it succeeds in fighting a sweet middle by making it an entertaining experience as well. With beautiful script, amazing performances and taut direction, it also features first use of claymation in Indian films in the opening credits of the film to show Ishaan's imagination. It stays away from over-sensationalizing it or making something of a typical masala movie out of it by keeping the integrity, seriousness of the subject matter intact. And for that reason alone, I think it deserves to be an essential watch for any Bollywood enthusiast.

Rating(out of 5):


  1. You are so right about your comments about the Maa song in the film. I am a mess if I hear it or see it performed onscreen. I don't think any other recent song has has such an impact.

    1. That is so true! I am glad we agree on its effect. :)

  2. Taare Zameen par , was the last indian movie which made me cry :( . . . one of the favorite of mine , thanks for adding it in essentials .

    apart from that the only two indian movies are there in IMDb top 250 ( TZP , 3 Idiots ) , but i firmly believe that TZP was way batter than 3 idiots & one of the real Gem given by Aamir khan .

    1. I love it too. So, you are welcome! :)

      I am one of those 7 people who think 3 idiots wasn't as great a film as everyone else makes it sound like. In my opinion, it goes over the so much and so often that if there is any serious message behind it, it is completely lost on me. But that's just me. So yeah, TZP is definitely way better than 3 Idiots.


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