Just done watching Taare Zameen Par. And it’s not done my image of Aamir Khan any good. Here’s why:
- People say it’s great, DIFFERENT even, that the spotlight is taken by that little buck-toothed boy, and not by Aamir Khan. Hell, that WAS supposed to be the USP.
- Agreed, Aamir Khan is not in every second frame. But why, oh why, does there have to be a child in every damn frame he is in, as if he’s some ChachaNehru-wannabe?
- It’s an hour-and-a-half into the movie that the first mention of the word “dyslexia” is made. And overall, it’s mentioned TWICE in the movie.
- Why does a “different” movie have to burst into irrelevant song and dance – whoops, montage – every five minutes? Or was it supposed to be a “different” kind of “different”?
- All in all, it feels like being murdered with a blunt knife, what with the typical Aamir-style long-drawn-out scenes. Like take the last half an hour for example. The kid is learning his spellings. That’s new to the audience. The parents are amazed at the report card. That’s expected, but fine nevertheless. Why the stabyard art competition whose results are a mystery to no one? Just to drive home the point teachers can’t draw?
Documentary… where did that come from, you ask? Aamir Khan’s lecture to the kid’s parents reminded me of those family planning or girl-child-is-also-a-human-being short films that used to be shown on Doordarshan. It really surprised me some arbit art teacher was the only one in the entire spectrum to realize it was dyslexia – any school Principal worth her salt needs to have finished a B.Ed course, and Learning Disorders is an essential part of any such course – That kid’s first Principal should have been the one giving the lecture, instead of saying “shaayad ise koi problem hai… kuchch bachche badnaseeb hote hain, aise bachchon ke liye alag se special schools hote hain”. What the hell was she implying there?
And… in spite of portraying the mother as someone who listens to her child, atleast more than anyone else, how come the question “Why aren’t you able to read and write?” figure even once? Wouldn’t that have solved the problem, as any urban parent, however ignorant, would have taken their child to a psychologist if such behaviour kept repeating? Or wouldn’t atleast the school have suggested it? Or if it was a posh enough school, wouldn’t they have their own in-house child psychologist? And for godsake, the kid says he “sees the letters dancing”. And no one found that a cause for concern? I mean… when Anjali Khanna was eight years old, she was reading long long letters from her mum, and thinking up ideas to create a spark between her daddy and Anjali-aunty.
I received a forward which wondered how Taare Zameen Par would have been if anyone else had directed it – Farah Khan, Sanjay Leela Bhansali, Rakesh Roshan.. the usual suspects. But more than Aamir Khan, I’d’ve preferred someone like Shyam Benegal or Shekhar Kapoor had directed the movie. I watched Masoom very long back, and the sensitivity with which the children were portrayed was mindblowing. You would actually feel the tears welling up when the kid was going away.
If the movie was indeed about creating awareness about dyslexia, it would have been a better watch if it was a documentary with all the extra chaff removed, like the songs, and the Aamir Khan scenes, the kid-getting-into-trouble scenes, the yelling-daddy scenes. It could be one of those public-service documentaries in the style of School Chalein Hum or the ones we see about AIDS awareness. Oh, yes, Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy could still have composed background music… methinks they held Aamir at atknife-point to give them more scope in the making of the movie. It could still be a tasteful one with nice long speeches about Einstein, Da Vinci, Agatha Christie and Edison being dyslexic (IMO, that was the best bit of the whole movie), with the kid learning words and letters with other aids….
So what irks me the most is the kid and the Art teacher take center stage, and dyslexia seems almost incidental to the movie. The reason the movie brings a tear to the eye is because it portrays the underdog, it portrays his everyday suffering in ways that remind you of something similar you might have faced, and last but not the least, it portrays a superhero who saves the kid from a life of unmitigated torture – not even once do you feel that the kid is putting in as much or more effort than Mr. Khan in learning his lessons.
*Sigh* But I guess that’s expected when you’re dealing with a superstar who thinks not twice before playing a college dude when he’s twice the age of the average college-goer. Or when making a big-budget movie with many superegos clashing. All in all, the product is Aamir Khan, and the packaging is Children, Christmas Release, and Dyslexia… There! I’ve mentioned dyslexia more often than is mentioned in the movie.
And that is another reason a NFDC-sponsored documentary directed by Kanika-Bala or Vishal Bharadwaj would have been a better flick.
Addendum: It really irks me when the “system” and “establishment” are portrayed in movies as ineffectual in solving problems they are designed to combat, in situations where the opposite is true.
Addendum 2: If you’ve watched this movie, check out the following Calvin and Hobbes comic strips:
Remind you of anything?
And NO! Calvin is NOT dyslexic. He can write “Aliens Land Here” with Christmas lights and “My dad is a …” in the snow.
Addendum 3: If you thought this [Referring to the scene the comic strips might have reminded you of] was pretty original of Aamir Khan, maybe you should also know that the infamous beer scene from Rang De Basanti is from War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy. Hmm…. maybe I should just feel happy he reads.
Addendum 4: Aamir Khan says Da Vinci wrote in mirror letters because he was dyslexic! It’s widely known that the backward writing was a “secret code” thanks to Dan Brown’s seminal work. But scholars are also of the view that since Da Vinci was left-handed, he wrote right-to-left to avoid smudging the ink. And no, I’m not holding this against the movie. I only hate misinformation.
Addendum 5: I don’t harbour any illusions of this being a balanced review, and would prefer it if you reading this didn’t, either. I wrote this five minutes after being through with the movie, and these were the only impressions that stuck. While I don’t have issues with others saying that the movie is good, and that they liked it, I’ll be the first one to protest if India decides to send this to the Oscars. And probably the only, but that’s to be expected.