Cast: Aamir Khan ,Tanay Chheda, Darsheel Safary, Tisca Chopra, Sachet Engineer, Vipin Sharma
Banner: Aamir Khan Productions, PVR Cinema
Producer: Aamir Khan
Director: Aamir Khan
Music Director: Shankar Mahadevan, Ehsaan Noorani, Loy Mendonca, Shailendra Barve
Welcome (pun intended) to the world of Walt Disney in India! Yes, that’s exactly how Aamir Khan, debuting as director, and his creative team package the film, making a classic entertainer that does not bore a second at 18 reels on a subject as socially-vital as dyslexia. So all you Revathis, Farhan Akhtars and Ashutosh Gowarikers et al out there who think that social issues need dry and drab treatments get ready for Mr Ram Shankar Nikumbh (Aamir Khan), a colourful arts teacher who – rightly and vitally – believes that every child is special, whether dyslexic or physically- and mentally-challenged.
And in this lies hidden the great myth about dyslexia, a disorder that spans a diversity of symptoms but is found only in children with above-average intelligence, imagination and emotional quotient. Taare… could have emerged as a cloying or crawling docu-drama without the colours in which Nikumbh and his favourite student Ishaan so boldly love to dabble. Instead, Khan uses his superstardom and his family tradition of full-on entertainers (his uncle and role model Nasir Husain) and his acting icon Shammi Kapoor’s mantra of universal connect to make a film that is vibrant and funny but stunningly moving and impact-laden too.
The top billing over the superstar to Harsheel Daftary who plays the clumsy, carefree, conventionally “duffer” and internally-suffering Ishaan is completely justified. The boy delivers a performance that can only be called stupendous, and no doubt a few more words can be added from the Thesaurus. Taare delights, touches, elevates, instructs and motivates both such children and adults who have to deal with such offsprings, students and kids in general, and full marks and more to the creative teams – writer and creative director Amole Gupte and his wife Deepa Bhatia who is responsible for the concept, the painstaking and authentic research and the compassionate editing that does not cut off scenes for dramatic brevity when detailing is vital.
While the climax of Lagaan was set in a cricket match, here it is in an art competition, but the effect is as rivetting and cheering. Ishaan, the underdog, the boy who is a ‘disgrace’ to his parents, school and orthodox teachers with his blunders, low marks and aggressive behaviour blooms into the hero of the day, all because of the farsighted and motivated Nikumbh ‘Sir’ who waters this human plant with compassion, sympathy and affection instead of pouring reprimands, beatings, criticisms and ridicule on him!
The film takes care to paint the parents, hassled from their own perspective, as real, believable people who are ignorant of the enormity of the problem and where it can lead the loveless Ishaan. Ishaan’s animation diary is the masterstroke in the film (which has to be seen on screen rather than described) and the sledgehammer impact of Ishaan’s father’s second interaction with Nikumbh is another dramatic highpoint. Through subtly effective rather than in-your-face methods, the film spotlights vital points, like laws about handling dyslexics, the gifts of handicapped children, the lack of individual attention in schools, physical punishments, academic pressures of performance on small children and other rampant evils in the socio-educational fabric of Indian society.
Incredibly, the script even brings out dry facts in an interesting fashion through visuals and dialogues, and if cinematic license is taken in Nikumbh’s idealistic character, it is only to highlight how much better Indian children would be today if teachers and the system thought out-of-the-box even with normal children!
A word about the animation by Tata Elxsi – it is nothing short of fantabulous, and the same goes for the dialogues (Amole) and the outstanding lyrics (Prasoon Joshi) especially in “Maa”. Amole contributes here too, with “Mera jahaan”. The music (except for “Maa” and the title-track) could have been much better, ditto the background score. But Setu’s camerawork and Shruti Gupte’s production design are extraordinary and thankfully again, very ‘Indian film’ and bright. No noir or ‘mood’ rubbish here – the film is too progressive and bright for that!
View Taare Zameen Par Stills
View Taare Zameen Par Stills
The rest of the performances are no less, even if some of the teachers are intentionally caricature-like. Aamir Khan is effortless, his artless performance in the more dramatic and intense scenes packing a zor ka dhakka dheere se lage wallop. The kids are simply wonderful, especially Sachet Engineer as Ishaan’s bright brother who unwittingly makes things worse by his all-round genius and Tanay Chheda as the crippled Rajan, Ishaan’s best friend in class.
Here’s a film of which its makers and we as Indians can be truly proud. A film for every human being who realizes that the future of mankind lies in how he nurtures today’s children. If this film does not win any Best Film award this year, it will be the awards’ loss. For rarely have entertainment and message so exquisitely combined in Hindi cinema.