As every one would know by now, it is a story about a boy suffering from learning disabilities, and his struggle with the world. It is a sensitive tale where the parent-child relationship has been well explored. The interesting thing about the movie is that even if we have never been associated with anyone with learning disabilities, we can still relate to the characters. This is because the movie doesn’t just deal with learning disabilities – it deals with a lot more.
Be it the father who has mountains of expectations from his children, or the mother who has sacrificed everything to give her children the best they can get, or the older sibling who tops his class and is trying to deal with an errant failure of a younger sibling, or the child himself – fraught with the disability, the peer pressure, struggling against everyone. Forgetting deliberately to get our papers signed, bunking school, forging absent notes, taking surprise tests which we are bound to fail… All of us can see ourselves somewhere in the movie. The movie makes us see the mirror, which is a great job done. It helps the audience to identify with the movie, and accept it.
But this is also, in my opinion, one of the drawbacks of the movie…some people do not like to be shown a mirror. The fathers who felt ashamed of being insensitive towards their children’s struggles, the mothers who could not stop their children from being reprimanded by their husbands, the older siblings who felt frustrated on not being able to understand their sibling’s failure… many people told me that they have been in these situations, and watching the movie reminded them of their actions, and they felt uncomfortable. While some people realised their mistakes, accepted their faults, and began to look at the situation from a renewed point of view; others were too ashamed or too egoistic to accept the facts, and walked out of the movie, terming it as a “bad movie”.
So while this movie may have made some people realize and reform, those who chose to ignore the glaring truth: I hope that if not now, then maybe some day in the future, they will think about whatever little part of the movie they saw; and hopefully accept the message of the movie.
Which brings me to the question: what is the message of the movie really, if at all it has one? I think the movie does have a message, and the fantastic part is that it succeeds in imparting the message without exaggerating the sentiments or being preachy. As for the message, in my humble opinion, it is not “we should be sensitive towards disabled children” which is the only message. For me, the movie is about other important issues as well, which are being faced by today’s generation.
Some of Aamir’s dialogues: “In today’s world, there is too much competition. Everyone wants toppers in their homes. 95.5%, 95.6%... anything below that is like an abuse. Medicine, engineering, management… only these career paths are acceptable, there is no success anywhere else. Every child has his or her own abilities and pace of learning. But no, the parents do not understand that, and burden the tiny shoulders with the load of their own ambitions… and if the children are unable to fulfil their dreams, then all hell breaks loose. If you want to win races, breed race horses damnit, why produce kids??”
These statements sum up one of the most difficult problem a child faces today in the Indian society – that of choosing a path of education and career. We all have our talents and abilities and vocations; but for many of us, unfortunately, our parents have already charted the course of our student life and career, just the way they know exactly who would be the best life partner for us. Dare to defy them, face the music. After all they are our parents; it is our duty to quietly submit to their every whim and fancy. Of course, not all parents are competitive or dominating, and many kids today do not care two hoots about what the world expects them to do if they have found their calling in life. But for those who neither have the guts nor the resources to chase their dream, end up killing their desires and mechanically operate as per others’ wishes. And that is the worst thing one can do to a bright young child… kill his enthusiasm, his zest, his creativity, his individuality. If only the parents could respect the wishes of the child, especially if he is a slow learner or is trying to attempt something off-the-beaten-path, this world would be a happier place for youngsters.
In addition, I think this is a great movie for kids who are actually facing learning disability problems. Hopefully the next time we get up to shout at our child who has failed yet again on his test, we will pause to think for a moment and consider the possibility of the child having a genuine problem. For this movie clearly says that it is not a matter of humiliation if your child is a slow learner. We should understand the pain of the child and help him overcome the disability: many successful people have emerged victorious in their battle with dyslexia. It can happen to anyone, and if happens to someone you know, it is not the end of the world. Acceptance is the first step towards recovery.
Alas, change is awfully slow in our society. But it is great to see that there are people who are still trying, via all media, to deliver messages to the public. There is hope. I say, if even 1% of the parents and teachers, who are the prime sculptors of our personalities and lives, can understand the movie and change their own thinking, the movie is a success. For it is not the box office earnings that are important for a movie like this, but the change in the thinking of the society at large, which is the real success factor. So I completely agree with the people when they say that this movie should be made compulsory to be watched by every parent and teacher in this country. It is not a movie just for the kids. It is a movie for all to see, enjoy, and hopefully learn from. A must see, all you people!
Just one warning – apart from the wonderfully done locations, characterisation, music and cinematography, the movie is also very touching: the “hai na maa” and “taare zameen par” songs, the boy struggling at the hostel, Aamir dealing with the boy’s problem and his parents, the climax scene… they all are real tear jerkers, so dont forget to take a pack of tissues with you. I guarantee you'll need it ;)