For as long as I can remember, I’ve been cynical about Bollywood, often launching lengthy diatribes on its quixotic, far fetched story lines, mocking its melodrama and laughing when the actors wept on screen. Even some of the blockbusters have failed to impress me and I had started believing that those star celebrities were ridiculously overpaid and their movies overrated. By and large I had formed an opinion that bollywood was more style than substance and that for the most part, bollywood movies were incapable of making its viewers ponder, deliberate or feel. Then, completely unplanned, one evening, not expecting anything different, I watched Taare Zameen Par (TZP) and almost ‘under duress’ I was made to reconsider and revise my impression of Bollywood. Although more of an exception than the rule, TZP had left me no choice but to accept that Tinsel Town productions are perhaps not all that bad.
So, what is it about TZP that makes it such a good movie? Well, actually everything!! For a start, it’s got the basics right; a fantastic script that is both realistic and relevant to our times, astute direction and acting that will blow the most stone hearted critics away. And that’s not all, even the music and the lyrics is straight out of the top draw. But what really distinguishes it from its other desi counterparts is the superb storyline. It is the story of our times, our society, our world. A world where children are getting older younger, a society which judges children solely based on their academic achievements and strongly opines that anyone who is not academically proficient is destined to be a failure in life. TZP is the story of Ishaan Nandkishore Awasthi, a dyslexic 8 year old boy, played by debutant Darsheel Safary, and his transformation from being a timid diffident child who lives in his own world, consistently underperforming in studies, to someone who becomes a star with the help of a mentor, who understands, empathises and helps him overcome his shortcomings.
The entire cast of TZP has done an extremely commendable job. Tisca Chopra as the worried mother who is torn between the love for her son and the concern for his future, which is beautifully depicted when she silently weeps on her way back after dropping him in boarding school, and Vipin Sharma, the stern hard working father who attributes his son’s academic failures to a lack of interest and diligence, are convincing. Sachet engineer, the loving elder brother who in contrast to his younger sibling, excels academically also plays his part and the scene where he is cajoled by Ishaan into writing a leave letter for him, without his parent’s knowledge, is something most elder brothers will be able to relate to. Aamir Khan, as the drawing teacher and Ishaan’s friend, philosopher and guide, is excellent yet again. But the real star of the show has to be Darsheel Safary, who belies his age and experience in the industry through one of the best performances I’ve ever seen. The scenes where the song ‘Maa’ is being played in the background are extremely poignant. Trivial as it may seem, the scene where he gives a jerk when the car engine starts was mind blowing. How the hell do u teach a kid to act like that??
What is truly noteworthy is that none of these characters have been exaggerated. And that’s why it works. The mother has not been shown as a woman who favours one child over another or the father as a cruel wicked man who beats his child and derives sadistic pleasure out of hurting him one way or another. Their worries are genuine, their concern palpable. They play the role of mothers and fathers you will find in any home in this country. Even the little cameos played by the teachers bring back nostalgic memories.
TZP is more than just a must watch movie, it is a lesson, an education, a case study in movie making. It must be made mandatory for anyone who either is or wants to be a parent, teacher or movie maker. They say a movie must make you forget that you are sitting in a hall; TZP does exactly that. I must admit during the course of the movie when my eyes first filled up with tears, I was embarrassed. But when I looked around, I saw people irrespective of age or sex weeping buckets. The reason was simple – they were in some capacity able to relate to it. They had either suffered the same trauma as a child or had been culpable for not having been more understanding and empathetic as a parent.
When the movie finally ended, the reaction from the audience was unanimous. There was a standing ovation and no one left the hall till the screen completely blanked out. It was something that I had never seen before. It was in some ways ample testimony to the kind of movie TZP is. Taare Zameen Par had touched places in my heart I never knew existed. After a hiatus of almost 15 years I wept after watching a movie. The last time that happened was when I watched ‘Haathi Mere Saathi’ as an innocent eight year old. Taare Zameen Par is, without a shadow of a doubt, one of the best movies ever made.