Taare Zameen Par – movie review
Taare Zameen Par, which means Stars on the ground, is a movie is about a gifted child who is also dyslexic. The subject is handled sensitively by Aamir Khan, who is both producer and director. He manages to get an amazing performance out of Darsheel Safary, who acts as eight year old Ishaan Awasthi. I still can’t get over that kid’s acting performance…I have never seen a child act so brilliantly. And considering that the boy was present in almost every frame, the fact that he acted so well went a long way in making the film as brilliant as it is.
The movie is a little slow in the first half, but it’s a treat to watch the director take us into the world of children. One doesn’t have to be a dyslexic or have a dyslexic child to identify with the world that is created…a world of imagination, of colours and that of innocent wonder at the joys of nature. Surely all of us remember staring in fascination at fish swimming in a fish tank or at birds feeding their young? And each one of us has spent hours near water, trying to make paper boats float! We have all stared out of classrooms at birds and trees or doodled on pieces of paper while teachers droned on…well, I have! If the pace is a little slow, well, I think it was right for the subject.
What made the first half all the more poignant was that Ishaan is a child rejected not only by his peers and his teachers, but also by his father…and his world of imagination, of colour, is all that he has to cling on to. He has his mother too. Tisca Chopra plays his mother Maya, who understands him but is helpless in the face of a demanding, authoritarian father (played by Vipin Sharma). These two characters (of the parents) seemed stereotypical to me.
What I really liked about this movie is that the subject is not restricted to just a dyslexic child struggling with his writing and reading, but also talks about the struggle of a child against the rigors of a school system which pounces on every little mistake and humiliates the child for making it. A system which is rote oriented and stifles original thinking. When little Ishaan explains the meaning of a poem in an abstract fashion, in pure ideas, his teacher gets enraged, thinking that Ishaan is talking nonsense. Even the Art teacher insists that the children draw Still Life and is himself incapable of using his imagination. Well, this is how Art is ‘taught’ in Indian schools.
It’s not just rote, but the continuous emphasis on marks by both teachers and parents that is brought out in the movie. Worse, if one doesn’t perform…or is naughty, then corporal punishment is waiting! The harsh reality of Indian school life. Children who fall in line (Ishaan’s elder brother is shown as a stark contrast to Ishaan) and get good marks are rewarded and are seen to be winners in the game of life.
You don’t get to see Aamir in the first half. In fact a little five year girl sitting in front of us, kept asking her parents when Aamir Khan was going to put in an appearance, so I wasn’t the only one!
Aamir arrives in the last scene just before intermission. He plays an art teacher, Nikhubh Sir. Aamir I realised with a start, doesn’t look young anymore. As to how he plays his role as a teacher, well, he certainly looks old enough, but he doesn’t look like a teacher at all…in fact even the way he talks seems artificial. I think he should have paid more attention to this aspect … but well, it mattered less as the show was all Ishaan’s. And ofcourse of Aamir’s as well – as a director.
In the second half, we see a lot of Aamir, at a boarding school where Ishaan has been banished as a punishment for being ‘lazy’ and ‘dumb.’ We immediately know that there is hope for little Ishaan. If we had shed tears earlier, now there are reasons to smile. From here on the movie moves much faster and sad little Ishaan, traumatized by his separation from his family, starts to come out of his shell. It’s interesting to see how Aamir tries to help Ishaan….and also holds up a mirror to Ishaan’s father who is under the illusion that that he has loved, helped and supported Ishaan.
The music is by Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy and you can download the songs (and get the lyrics as well) here at the movie site. The song Taare Zameen Par is the best. The music is present almost throughout the film, as a kind of background and I think it’s overdone.
I always like to see a movie right till the end, even when the credits are being shown. And this one has footage of underpriviled children at the end which is heart warming to see.
If you love children you will love this movie. I am sure the movie is going to walk away with awards…and kudos to Aamir the director! Although he happens to be my favorite Bollywood actor, in this movie I prefer Aamir the director. And the review cannot go without the mention of writer and creative director, Amol Gupte, who has penned a wonderful story and script.