Sunday, February 3, 2008

Taare Zameen Par - I finally saw it!

Warning: Don't read this post if you haven't seen the movie and want to watch it. Although it's a bit unlikely that you haven't seen it yet! Also, if you're not interested in this movie, you may want to skip the post and come back tomorrow, or you'll get very bored. Cool? Chalo, then.

So everyone I know who has seen Taare Zameen Par absolutely loves it. I have been wanting to watch the movie for the longest time, but haven't been able to do it because of Peanut - can't take a six month old to a movie hall, can't leave her behind for so many hours yet, and the DVD isn't out yet.

But Vijay managed to get a CD with a not-so-great-but-watchable print, and so we actually sat down and watched it this morning. Phew! Glad that's out of the way because we had heard so much about it and the anticipation was killing me.

I was also most curious to see if I would cry during the movie because I have heard that most people - at least the women - or maybe the mothers in particular - are quite affected by the movie in this manner. I was therefore heartened by the fact that within the first five minutes I felt a definite lump in my throat to see poor Ishan being treated so badly. So misunderstood. That part of the film was just brilliantly done. I didn't actually cry though, though I felt my eyes beginning to well up a couple more times. Damn! It's been so long that a movie actually made me cry - because it was moving and not just plain bad -and I was quite looking forward to it. In fact - which was the last one? I can't remember! Ohh yeah, I think it was Chota Chetan - the original one when I was a kid, not the recent stupid 3D version with Urmila playing Batgirl.

But the thing with Taare Zameen Par - now, a lot of people are just going to plain disagree with me and that's quite alright - I found the overall thing quite disappointing. Part of this is because my expectations were way too high, although I tried not to let this affect me. But the truth is, I loved the movie till the time that Aamir made his highly dramatic entrance. And I thought it was just all downhill from there.

It's just that right before he jumped onto the screen in his clown costume, I was telling Vijay that the sad about this movie is that it is actually so close to the way that teachers in our schools behave - always rewarding consistency and rote and never making an attempt to understand a student's individual needs. And I was so happy to see that there weren't any songs which were randomly thrown in - each song that was sung in the background was meaningful and relevant to the scenes being shown. At this point, Aamir jumps in wiggling his bum singing 'Bum bum bole' to his students. Now don't get me wrong - it's a nice song, and that bum wiggling step is fun - I know because tried it almost immediately after the movie in the privacy of my own room - it's just that I thought it was all too sudden - and that the movie became completely predictable right after Aamir's entry. Suddenly you knew exactly what would happen, and even how it would happen - this cool, understanding, creative, super new art teacher would help Ishan and it would all be okay, etc.

Now, I know what staunch supporters of this movie would say -that the storyline is fairly well-known and predictable anyway - and it is the treatment that matters. True enough, but I just felt that the treatment in the first half of the movie was so classy, so different from all other movies, but despite the known storyline, it also left me really looking forward to what would happen next-and the second half just didn't live upto that.

I guess it was mostly that everything until that intermission point was so touching because it was so incredibly Real. And then, quite suddenly, it took on this fairy tale like quality wherein everything was being set right by Aamir and falling into place so nicely. I don't know. I guess that is commercial cinema for you, though. In Hindi movies, at least.

I also found the whole 'Art mela' and Ishan winning the first prize and being lauded by his peers, etc etc a trifle overdone and very predictable. Did you? It was a bit like Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer being suddenly loved by all the reindeer after Santa requested him to guide his sleigh. I'm hoping you know what I mean.

That's the thing, see. Why did he have to have a predictable special talent at all? I mean, why is it hard to imagine someone being average at everything? Obviously not everyone can be outstanding at everything - or maybe even at one thing. What's wrong with that? But then, when I think abouti, then it wouldn't be a movie, it would be reality - and that's not always much fun to watch, na? I mean, Rainman wouldn't have been so great if Dustin Hoffman wasn't always flabbergasting Tom Cruise with his nonchalant mathematical genius. Yeah.

But the best part of this movie is that it really makes you think. Think hard about the way that we are all set to always compete with each other - how everything is about Relative Grading, or RG-ing to use a Management Institute term. Winning competitions, first prizes, certificates, medals, badges, blah blah blah. Gah! I was taken back to my own schooling and college days, and how many of the teachers were just plain uninterested in creativity -in fact, uninterested in their jobs. A couple of years from now, we'll really need to figure this one out for Peanut's sake - and I'm not sure what we will actually do, but I know we'll do our best when that time comes.

And of course, I was only a little turned off by the rather obvious lift that the movie made from Calvin and Hobbes - when Ishan is imagining himself as 'Captain Ishan' (the equivalent of Calvin as Spaceman Spiff) trying to add 3 and 6 together and somehow concluding that the answer is 3. Why does a whole sequence like this have to be lifted with hardly any change from the original- that's a little bit more than inspiration, na? But then again, Ishan's huge grin and confident reply of 'Bindaas!' when asked how his test went, almost makes up for this rather blatant lift.

Overall, that kid who played Ishan was just brilliant throughout the movie. For him and the treatment in the first half alone, this movie was way, way above 'worth it' for me.

Man, this is why I don't do movie reviews. It's really quite pointless reviewing a movie that everyone else has already seen - and most people simple lowe. But heck, it's not really a review, it's just something that was on my mind and so I wrote it!

P.S - Vijay just came in and saw me writing this and asked me 'tum apni rai prakat kar rahe ho iss movie par? kyon itni achhi movie ke dhajjiya uda rahen ho?'. I am not doing that at all, am I?! And what is dhajjiyan udana, anyway?!
P.P.S - I think the only Hindi movies I have seen which have stayed brilliant throughout and not gone 'over the top' are Monsoon Wedding and Water. But then again, not quite fully commercial cinema, na?


  1. I guess there wasn't any other way to have done it and also made a popular film. Many of us have had issues with the necessity of Ishaan winning anything at all, but it did make for an overwhelmingly emotional moment.
    They could as well have ended the film where a visibly brighter and happier Ishaan was reading out loud about the Art Mela at the amphitheatre- that was really moving. I'm glad his dad moved away and didn't talk to him at that point.
    Perhaps it might have jarred less if the boarding school had a sensitive and aware teacher in the first place, rather than having to introduce him in that rather ridiculous fashion.
    But overall, a valuable film- different in a very positive way.

  2. Monsoon wedding- absolutely awesome film. Was too sleepy to sit through Water- I'll give it a shot- we have the CD.

  3. I agree with you when you say that Ishaan did not have to be brilliant at anything, infact I would also say that having Ishaan as a dyslexic child in a way helps legitimize the pressure parents put on children with no learning disabilities to fit in and excel academically. There are hundreds of kids who are just not inspired by the insipid teachers and the inane rat race... would have liked to see the film also address something like that.Having said that I guess the film does in a lot of ways remind me of how boring and uninspiring school and most teachers were. Also it does address how inadequate our education system is and how parents can be insensitive to what a child feels.
    Finally the film moved me (more than any film in the recent past has) mostly because everything seemed so familiar and so completely unjust. Hopefully kids will have it better in the future.
    Sorry for hogging so much space!!!!

  4. Wanna watch. Will watch this week. Promise.

  5. You alreay know what I think about the movie, so won't comment about that. Will just say I agree with what you and the other commenters said, but I just want to respond with my heart and not my mind... :)
    But to answer your question, "dhajjiyan udana" means "to blow to smithereens". Hope that clears that! :D

  6. i watched it this past weekend too! i enjoyed the movie and like you said, despite the brilliant acting, post-amir khan's entrance the movie got kind of blah. the one thing that struck me is when ishan's mom is watching home videos - figuring things out, confirming stuff. omg, that one moment, really got me. that's SUCH a mom thing,
    'how did i not know? how did i not notice?",
    the denial of the problem. and joy of the baby, regardless.
    so many things in that one bit of footage. some i can't even put into words.
    i realize what a scaredy-cat this motherhood thing has made me, i'm scared of all these things now. gone is the fearless girl i used to be. (okay, fairly fearless)

  7. Hmmm.. nice thought Y... couple of things which put me off slightly in Taare Zameen Par :

    (a) The Spiff rip-off, atleast Bill Watterson should've been mentioned in the credits.
    (b) The song 'Bheja Kum' seemed a lot inspired by the videos of Jeremy and Another Brick In The Wall.
    (c) Bum Bum Bole - sticks out. Doesn't gel with either the first half or the second half.

    Apart from the above, there is something else that, though didn't put me off, made me think. Not really a reflection on the movie, because the movie needed a plot, but about life in general... here goes...

    What if the kid, as you say, wasn't excellent at any one thing? And wasn't dyslexic either... which is to say, like 90%+ other kids, then.. then what?? What about the pressures and expectations THEY have to face? What about the fact that THEIR childhood is also worth pondering over. Just because they aren't "special" in either way - neither handicapped in any which way nor specially gifted in any field - doesn't mean they don't deserve being treated like the 'special' kids.

    A disability should not be turned around so much that it becomes coveted.

    There's another related thing which has always bothered me - in an apparent 'quest' (bad choice of word) to prove we believe in gender equality, I've seen so many of us yearning for a girl child. How about those who've always wanted a boy baby? The gender equality has been so talked about in erudite circles that it's almost taboo to say "Oh, I've always want a boy".

    Sorry Y... long long long comment, got carried over!

    Nice post, very well thought of.

    I still LOVED the movie though. More than any other movie in a long long time.

    Monsoon Wedding - not really very honest in my view. The part about child molestation was forced in, to give it an intellectual and 'classy' twist, in my view.

    There was something called 'Dansh' which came out two years back, it was a fabulous, fabulous make... though traumatic, and I will not recommend it to myself or to others.

    Phew (finally!)... tata Y, don't ban me!

  8. I get where you're coming from and I found myself nodding at most places while reading the post. Here's my stuff -

    I lowed the movie!

    I think it was important to show him excel in something, also because he was supposed to be dyslexic...on an average, dyslexia usually ( not always) does bring with it special talents....

    I don't like aamir Khan much, but I am glad he made the film simply because special children are really ignored in society, or at best sent away to special schools. It brings out the point of it being possible and very important to mainstream them amongst others. That's how they can grow up and build their lives like everyone else. There might be 1000 such kids who'd probably never get "help" because no one understands that their needs are different.

    I know someone, who's child I suspect, is dyslexic...but the parents refuse to even consider that possibility and come back with "you think my child is mad"?

    But I hate bum chick too :)

  9. @stuti- I thought that the child molestation bit and the way it was handled was what made Monsoon Wedding
    a truly awesome movie. The part where the molester is asked to leave is one of the most gut wrenching, heart- rending scenes ever.

  10. Dipali: True, but I still think it was done in a rather tacky manner, in the second half. And agree with you, the part where the Dad sees Ishan reading and walks away in shame was very touching indeed. Let me know how you like Water.

    Nandita: No,no, there is no such thing as hogging comment space. And yes, what about the kids who are 'just average' at everything? Does everyone have to have an outstanding talent? Hmm.
    Suki: Hope you didn't read the post then!

    N: I do know how you feel about it! And thanks for the translation :-)

    Mona: I know, yaar, this motherhood thing is a whole new ball game. I even liked that 'Ma' song! Sheesh!

    Stuti: I would never ban you of all people (although your joke on my earlier post about Peanut confusing me and the K, made me want to throttle your skinny neck). But agree with Dipali above, that in Monsoon Wedding, the child molestation story was very central to the film and very relevant and telling.

    Chandni: Yes, as long as it affects even some people positively and makes them think differently about the way they pressure their kids, great. And glad to know I'm not the only one who doesn't like Aamir. And that Bum song. But have you tried dancing alone, wiggling your bum in front of your mirror while singing it?

    Dipali: I agree, yes, yes. That scene in Monsoon Wedding was really impactful. Also earlier, when the older victim finally speaks up and stops him from taking the younger girl for a drive in the car. Why can't we have more movies like this!?

  11. Y, Dipali

    Totally ageee it was a very potent scene, and straight-to-heart... I am just saying it seemed a bit forced in so that it could carry a "niche, thinking audience" tag as well in addition to being a fun, monsoon-y movie.

    But... that's not to take away from the face that everybody - the young girl, Shefali Chhaya, Rajat Kapoor and especially Naseeruddin Shah - were fantastic, very real, very restrained and very believable while enacting the entire episode. I love Naseeruddin Shah.

    Y - glad you did realise it was a joke. I would never want to risk your ire! Love.


    (Y hehe, you didn't think the old campus junta will forget, eh - not when we had three cake-cutting ceremonies on that day... Trupti, if you're reading this, that includes you.)

  12. wish the whole school system would get a revamp..

  13. Y,

    Oh, I agree with your take, but then it wouldn't *be* a movie!
    Aamir Khan, unfortunately, tends to irritate the heck out of me, so the movie kinda suffered from Aamiritis, but Darsheel - Oh my What a performance!

    Regarding Water and Monsoon wedding - Liked Monsoon wedding, but disliked Water - the choice of John Abraham (who makes a log of wood look animated, IMO!) and Lisa Ray, who also cannot act at all, was absolutely wrong...the story itself felt forced - I think Mehta's trilogy pretty much went downhill after Earth, which was the best of the three. (CYA statement: All my opinion :-))


  14. With due respect to your opinion...I think what was most awesome about the film is that it never loses its single central idea...ISHAN

    Its about the boy and his struggle to be himself...yes it tends to get a bit melodramatic towards the end but the single thread that binds the entire length of the film is never out of focus and to me thats the best part of the film...


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