December 31, 2007

Movie Review - Taare Zameen Pe

A long overdue review of the movie Taare Zameen Pe. I had heard the amazing reviews before hubby dragged me to the theater. Me, am not a sensitive soul and a senti movie with a message, in my opinion, is something one should watch on DVD and fast forward when the sappy stuff gets too much to digest. But then, am saddled (or should I say, that I have saddled myself) with a guy who loves to watch such movies, on DVD or the silver screen. Ah, well. Shouldn't complain.

Ok, focus, the movie. Great, in one word. The performances are uniformly good and the boy (Darsheel Safary) and Amir Khan exceptional. It is all the reviews say and more. And am sure you have been bombarded with reviews talking of how great the movie is and what the storyline is and what the performances are. So, am going to write about that part very briefly and elaborate on the various messages (other than the 'every child is special' one) that the movie tries to convey.

The movie storyline is a simple one but the execution is great. Amir Khan manages to avoid falling into most of the pits that make Bollywood inspirational movies preachy, repetitive, emotionally-overloaded, corny and tear-fests. Not all, but most. And the result is a movie that tugs at your heartstrings and still manages to get the message across. It is a great story about a dyslexic boy and how his own family is unable to understand him and how salvation arrives in the guise of an art teacher who himself is a dyslexic but has overcome his affliction and sees a bit of himself in the kid. You have a small number of characters the family of the four - mom, dad, two sons, the younger of whom is dyslexic, the teachers who try to teach the boy and Amir Khan(who comes in after the interval). Most of the characters are beautifully etched while others (mostly the teachers) are caricatures. The unconditional love of the mother and her confusion and hurt at being unable to help her son is convincingly emoted by Tisca Chopra. The father who is unable to understand, and more importantly doesn't want to understand, his son who fails almost every subject is the most realistic character in the movie and is, thankfully, devoid of clich├ęd stereotyping. Plus, the movie stops short of being judgmental. The father, mother and teachers are not shown to be the villains but just plain ignorant. The brother of the Ishaan is a character whom I loved. A straight-A kid who excels at sports, the brother is also shown to be very close to his brother and also defends him and is encouraging of his smallest painting. Amir Khan as the teacher who wears his emotions and tears on his sleeve (or eyes) and is the compassionate savior who strives to makes sure that the kid is accepted by his family as he himself never was, is brilliant. But the best performance and character is that of Ishaan Awasthy. The kid who is unable to understand why he is the way he is and soon becomes ashamed of it is played with admirable aplomb and confidence by Darsheel. The movie, I am sure, required humongous research and enormous effort, as is evinced by the length of the credits at the end of the movie.

The two scenes that I loved in the movie, both in the second half, involve Amir Khan trying to tell the parents what their troubled kid needs. In the sequence where Amir Khan breaks the news to the parents that their kid is dyslexic but a very gifted painter, the father blusters "woh kya fayde ka hai?" ("what is the use of that?"), upon which Amir Khan goes on about the rat race that every kid is put through and the mould that all kids are expected to fit into that I am sure you must have caught in the ads. The reactions of the parents are simply brilliant in this scene. Later in the movie, the father - who thinks he has come to terms with his kid's problem and tries to regain some semblance of stature in the eyes of the teacher - is shaken to the core when Amir Khan very calmly, succinctly with barely restrained derision, rips his beliefs into shreds by telling him in a Marc Anthony-ish way what caring really means. I think that was one scene where we can all take notes. Yes, we all have known the effects and side-effects of the reality of the rat-race that is life today. The movie drives home the point very beautifully that at the same instant we are pushing our kids to prepare them for this life ahead, we too are subscribing - blindly - to the very concept of rat race ourselves, daily. That we forget to question our actions, and our motivations behind them, in our day-to-day life. When we dismiss the craft homework, or the paintings with a smile and a 'very nice' line but spend hours on explaining how important it is to excel and give your 100 percent. Do we think that, maybe if I consider the painting or the craft a part of study and praise it as it should be I would be instilling more confidence in my kid than any number of 24/25 could? No, we subconsciously think of our office hours, and how hard we work and how we wouldn't have been there if our parents in turn hadn't driven us to achieve perfection. How would our kid fare in such a world with not-so-perfect percentages? Are we thinking of their emotional needs? Do we put ourselves in their position and wonder if we would have liked to be told what we are telling them now? Or more importantly, if it really would help them? And, finally, if being perfect is really the be-all and end-all of success and life. The movie asks you at every point, what happens when you aren't perfect? Still trying to find the answer. Was wondering, how I would react if I was in Mrs.Awasthy's situation. Now that I have moved onto the gabby mode, I think that its time I stop before you zap into a catatonic state. The movie wasn't preachy or this stretched out so I shouldn't be either. Will leave you with one last thought (come on, you have made it this far, am sure you can read a couple of lines more). What is lacking in us that we blindly strive for attaining perfection, both in ourselves and our family? What drives us to drive our kids to be perfect? Like Amir Khan says in the movie, if you like to drive someone to become what you want them to, why not breed horses?
Over and out.

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