Monday, December 24, 2007

Taare Zameen Par

Tears welling up and weeping is not the easiest emotion that a man can express and when the raison d’etre for the tears is a movie, it becomes even more difficult to justify (if there was ever a need to). Aamir Khan’s directorial debut Taare Zameen Par accomplishes this rather effortlessly without too much of a melodrama but with a kind of sensitivity not seen in the recent past.

The movie takes us through the heart of a child suffering from dyslexia and succeeds where Monsieur Bhansali fails. It creates a world familiar to us, which we can relate to unlike Black which exists in its own self-indulgent vacuum. The images of a paint drop falling on Ishaan’s face, the dogs sleeping on his lap and the everyday sights of the world look so beautiful through the eyes of the young boy.

TZP deals with the life and tribulations of Ishaan Awasthi, fondly called Eno by his family. He’s a dreamer, with no sense of time, who lives in his own world inhabited by nature and its glorious manifestations. He is a regular kid who fights off bullies; bunks school and spends a great deal of his time day-dreaming.

Initially, we do not realize that anything is amiss and relate his behaviour to his age and innocence. He’s sent to a boarding school where he goes into his shell further till his disability is finally discovered by an Art teacher in his school, Ramkumar Nikumbh, played by Aamir Khan. The teacher then works to put him back on track.

The movie practically lives through the child’s eyes as he struggles to find meaning in the numbers and syllables drilled through his mind. He needs to not only satisfy his parental aspirations but also work around with his disability. Parental obsession with their children’s performance is only a symptom of this larger malice- where result is the only thing that matters. Only the exceptional ones are required, the rest of us remain people on the fringe without any voice.

The kid Darsheel Safarey is absolutely wonderful as he portrays the everyday kid we are familiar with and not the irritatingly cute kid in movies who tries his best to get on our nerves. His name appears first when the credits start rolling and his performance justifies that.

Aamir as Nikumbh Sir sports a spunky hairstyle and performs admirably, with just the right amount of restraint.(Let me concede that when I saw the Khan in the movie, I wondered how much we was being paid for such a job; shit, he can’t live so comfortably in Mumbai working only as an Arts School. Agreed that’s a cruel thought in the midst of all this but I could not stop myself!!!). The father remains a bit of a stereotype but Tisca Chopra as the mother fits the bill pleasantly well only to be ignored in the second half.

TZP sees Aamir as a very sensitive person; his tears well up just a bit too frequently in the movie. Is it because society has taught us that it’s not manliness to shed tears that many in the theatre felt disconcerting to see Aamir’s tears?

His characterization was a revelation; the protagonist is shown as a very soft-natured guy whose heart pains to see the struggles of a child and who has less control over his emotions when compared to the average hero. I always did think of Aamir as a Method Actor who thinks primarily from his brain; but this movie comes straight from the heart, not just the head and you actually feel for it.

A special mention about the music. Shankar, Ehsaan, Loy and Prasoon Joshi have done a wonderful job in delivering compositions that go along with the feel of the movie. The music has a soft, lilting presence which gives it a beautiful feel. Music has been used liberally in the movie but in no way does it manage to slow down the proceedings.

But there are areas that you wish Aamir could have plugged in, so that the movie could have been even better. The parental interactions in the second half are strangely muted. Ishaan’s mother has sacrificed her career to take care of her kids and is shown to be very sensitive to her children’s needs but even after realizing that her son has a learning disorder, all she manages to do is a Google search on dyslexia.

Was it the Actor Vs the Director clash that caused Aamir Khan to take over the role of the parents too and reduce their role to mere bystanders whose only involvement with their son is to collect his progress report?

Would it not have been better if Aamir had also tried to put in a parental point of view and not paint them in black and put all the blame squarely on them. Yes, they play a pivotal role in shaping the future of their children but trying to understand them would also have helped.

For all the pains that Aamir takes to showcase Ishaan’s difficulties, his progress takes place just a bit too fast, all in the pace of a song. Even the ending has its share of melodrama but even if it were only melodrama I would not have an issue. Instead, it requires Ishaan to take part in a competition and win the first prize to regain his esteem.

After all the bravado about parental mentality and rat-race, it is a bit unfair that Ishaan has to succeed in another rat race to redeem himself. Every child is special, so any need to actually outdo others and prove his specialty?

Most characters in TZP act as caricatures but I’m willing to buy that illustration. Maybe that’s how little Ishaan looks at the world. His perception about himself drives others to look at him similarly. At the end, Ishaan stumbles as he walks to receive the prize; does this suggest that he still is dependent on Aamir?

Nevertheless, the movie worked for me at different levels and not just the parental-child angle. It also talked about listening to one’s dreams as well as one’s inner feelings. The movie is not just for kids and carries a message for all of us.

We have forgotten to admire the small beauties that nature showers us daily with but take it for granted. The fluttering of a butterfly, the rhythm of a fish, the gentle waft of the breeze and its goose pimples are no longer important to us. What is important to us is our obsession with targets and timelines; so much so that we do not have even the time to feel happy about completing our targets.

Every child is indeed special!!! Thanks, Aamir for displaying the guts to break all conventions and make such a beautifully sensitive movie…………


  1. thanks for pointing out the flaws in the movie. I have been googling for an hour but couldn't get any balanced reviews...

  2. Hi,
    I read the review. I felt it was good but cannot understand people's comments about the "art teacher's looks or his style of life". He is a young art teacher,who wears trendy clothes and dresses differently compared to the Hindi teacher or the English teacher. Grant him so much freedom of expression!

    The 2nd half of the movie revolves around Ishaan and the teacher, if the parents were involved the movie would have to be prolonged even more which would make it too boring.
    Last but not the least, I see the art competition as an attempt to bring out the child in everybody and to show the world the exceptional talent of this kid. Otherwise,everybody would continue to call him a duffer, crazy etc etc and continue to condemn the art teacher's attempt to bring out the hidden talent in this special child.
    No movie can be perfect but Aamir goes pretty close in tackling a difficult subject.HAts off to him!!!! Bum Bum Bole!!!!!!

  3. @ Syed:
    Glad that the blog met your need...

    The comments about his lifestyle and looks are probably unwarranted; sometimes, people have very cliched ideas about serious cinema. But if the trendiness stands out, it may just require some explanation.

    Involving the parents may make the movie boring; not too sure about that point but then when a story is to be told, it should be told the way that is right and if it slows the pace, so be it.

    Regarding the art competition, the criticism is not that it should not have been there. The point is even if he were not to come first, it should not have mattered. If only by standing first, his esteem is restored, then I guess Aamir's efforts have not been very successful. Your life should not be dicatated by others' perception of what is right and wrong.

  4. Any idea who is the actress who played Amir's female friend / tulip teacher in the movie.

  5. Ok, finally got the name. The character's name in the movie was Jabeen and the actress who plays it is GIRIJA(as per the film credits). This seems to be quite a popular search, especially considering the number of people who have come to this blog on the basis of this.

  6. To be more precise, Aamir's female friend / tulip teacher in the movie is played by GIRIJA OAK

  7. The child won the prize in the sense to show that 'A child with Dislexia too can win'. Yes. He may not get first in one competition or so. But it is only a movie, so he has to show that such kids also can win when given proper direction.

    Trembling may not be that he is dependent on Aamir but he is deeply emotional to digest the fact that he got the prize. Sometimes we are so used to all the bad ppl. say about us, we take it for granted that we are hopeless and we really cannot believe if others praise us one fine day.

    When a kid of 8 yr old might be experiencing it, he might tremble. That does not mean he is dependent on Aamri. Of course he will definitely be emotionally dependent for few months or so.

    As they already joined their son in boarding school, even if the parents know much about Dyslexia, they can do nothing about it. They cannot be with the kid and whatever they could do is to ring to the child and talk to him.

    Coming to how much he would have been paid depends. Some Institutes like TATA and all pay considerably well. Much is not shown about the personal life of the teacher so we might conveniently assume that he doesn't spend much and is very committed to his principles.

    How best the improvement in the child can be shown? In the song, they explained various ways to impart knowledge to a child about letters and maths. I feel it is justified.

    No matter how many times one watches the movie, one will not get bored. Nothing is overboard in this movie. Every emotion is subtle and no hype, hooplah and artificiality.

    Especially the art competition. It is also very natural. Anyone who creates something on their own wishes to share and they admire it like anything. This is what is shown with the teachers. There is a child in every person no matter how old they are. This is also portrayed. No preaching. It is just a sheer display. It is for us to perceive.


    Aamir's frnd in the movie !

  9. Very nice songs and movie ...this is one of the favorite best movies... i like it...
    Taare Zameen Par