Monday, January 14, 2008

On a recommendation spree... 2!

Last December I went home for the festive season. I reached Delhi on 22nd morning, and the first thing I did was to get tickets for the first available show for Taare Zameen Par. Ever since I came to know that Aamir Khan is making a movie, I had my mind set – no matter what the movies is about, I was definitely going to see it. Aamir is one of the few actors that I admire in the film industry: his acting skills, his perfectionist attitude… I am all for it! So I took my mother along and watched the movie. Here is my two cents!

To say that I liked the movie would be an understatement. The movie was excellently made, with amazing performances by every one of the actors. It is one of the most realistic movies I have seen in a long time, the last one being Khosla ka Ghosla, where every character looked like someone in your own family. Similarly, the house, the parents, the neighbourhood, the school… everything and everyone gave me a sense of Déjà vu. A feeling of ‘been there, done that’.

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 ;)


Ashen Glow said...

What a friend had to say when i told him my brother was dyslexic as a kid...
"Yar, accepted that you liked the movie.. but that doesnt mean you look for subjects around you..."


Sigh!.. As you say, i hope the effect isnt a fad... 'the most fav topic of the month/year' and ebb away with time

Yashika Totlani said...

wow... included everything that i would have liked to while writing a review for the film. i'll tell you how the scene was like when i watched it---
mom was sniffing by my side, my brother was sobbing on the other side, n i had a big senti lump in my throat. some kid in the theatre couldnt stop empathizing with our cute lil progatonist there...

as always... you glide with the words. read the post in one smooth flow. one small grudge though... why didnt aamir n the kid get enough appreciation for their awesomely fantastic performances???

p.s. i know im the least eligible person to say this(havent updated my blog in months)... but welcome back to the blogging bandwagon!

lovish agarwal said...

Well I too loved the movie but I have some serious problems with the plot and the plot does falters.

It's ironic that a film which is vehemently critical of the “rat race culture” eventually needs the premise of winning a contest among hundreds for the protagonist to attain acceptability. Why couldn't it be a quiet, less spectacular personal victory where the learning and consequent growth is internalized more profoundly at the individual level ?

Ram Nikumbh (Aamir Khan) appears and with extra attention and affection ‘cures’ Ishaan Awasthi. Ishaan not only passes his exams but also wins the first prize in the painting competition that his art teacher organizes so obviously for his benefit. As the story reaches the climactic crescendo of applause, tears of happiness and family reunion, you need to ask just one question – what if Ishaan Awasthi was not a gifted painter? Acceptance from teachers, students and most importantly his parents comes noticeably only after he has ranked first, if not in academics then in painting. If the film is expecting all dyslexic children to become Einstein, Michelangelo, or even Abhishek Bachchan, these kids are facing worse pressure than the other ‘normal’ kids.

But as human , I too cried seeing the movie but analytically I think this is where movie falters .

Sugar&Spice said...

@ lekha: with the movie being made tax free, i hope more people can see it, and understand what it is trying to say. i also hope, like u, that it is just not a passing fad, but makes a permanent mark on the minds of teh viewers!!

@yashika: thanks for the words of encouragement girl... i guess i was too engrossed with trying to express the meaning of the movie the way i saw it that i forgot to mention that the performances by EVERYONE in teh movie were ABSOLUTELY fantastic! sorry for this missing important piece!!

Sugar&Spice said...

some excellent observations about teh plot. I am sure that aamir must have thought about it.

i think that aamir was a lil tooo senti for reality. he was a lil too biased towards ishaan, tho i think that it cd be justified by teh fact that maybe he felt sorry for teh kid cuz he was also dyslexic.

but i think that really, CURING someone of teh problem of dyslexia is NT impossible.. maybe it was shown as a very simple and quick process in teh movie for lack of time, but i am sure its possible, I have seen people who are functioning perfectly well as adults, who were dyslexic in their childhood. so as mentioned in teh movie, with some empathy and help, anyone can fight this problem.

and as for the painter part, i agree that if ishaan was not a painter, then i wd have been more difficult. but remember, teh director did not forget this part. there was this scene when the father says "painting achhi karta hai to kya? bafa hokar paise kaise kamayega?" it reflects th attitude that only the traditinal careers like doctor, engineer, mba are successful, artistic talents are useless. even if ishaan were not dyslexic, he wd face this question. the fact that he was dyslexic, and shown as a guy who cd paint well, i think aamir only wanted to prove that dyslexics are not losers in life. i do not think that he wanted to float the idea that every dyslexic kid is einstein. all he wanted to say was// "every child has his own skills and abilities, his own pace at which he learns. let him blossom on his own, encourage him, rather than reprimand for failing to fulfil ur own ambitions." i do not think that this film is in any way going to put more pressure. i hope this film makes parents think for a moment, and help them accept that their kid might not be naughty, but have some genuine problems.

Sugar&Spice said...

one more thing, i do think that it was a lil exaggerated when ishaan won the comptn, but they probably wanted to show that a boy like ishaan who has been shunned by the world, can be accepted by the same people, for who he is. give aamir a lil leeway... what they call... cinematic liberties! atleast he did not show that suddenly ishan's handwriting is winning prizes or he is standing 1st in class!! but as long as he is able to cope up with the others, he ceases to be a troubled child, and becomes part of them. then he faces the same challenges and struggles as any of us.

2T aka Vamsee said...

Yes it certainly is one of the best movies made in recent times...I just hope this is not a one-off affair with the industry, but the beginning of a new genre of bollywood movies. Very well put.