Saturday, December 22, 2007

TAARE ZAMEEN PAR: MOVIE REVIEW

Cast: Darsheel Safary, Aamir Khan
Director: Aamir Khan
Runtime: 156 min.
Rating: ***1/2
Genre: Drama

This much I do know – there’s no such thing as a bad boy
- Spencer Tracy as Father Eddie Flanagan in
Boy’s Town (1938)

I love this quote immensely; it has been besides me probably in me for a great part of my journey. Apparently, this quote might seem a bit out of place. On a closer reflection though, Taare Zameen Par at its heart intends to convey a feeling that is a mirror image of the quote. A positive, upbeat, full of heart mirror image of a rather dark and somber observation. And that is – every boy is special. That is true, and I cannot agree more with the film in its belief. What I also believe is that the special boys include me, my brother, my friends and very other boy I know or I don’t know needless of the fact that he is physically, mentally, psychologically, genetically or biologically challenged. Why does it need to be a special-case child, in this case a dyslexic kid, to represent us? Yes, it makes for more drama and probably better engrossing cinema. But please, peep into that kid’s life who builds the 99% of the class. He might just dazzle you with his vision. He wouldn’t be good at painting, but he could surprise you with his insights into history. He could ask you - if three bananas are not divided between three kids, then how many bananas would each kid have. He wouldn’t be good at solving puzzles but he could orate an argument that might just leave you spellbound. Or rather, he wouldn’t have anything apparent up his sleeve. His specialty might just be what this film believes it is preaching but ends up contradicting itself – to LIVE one’s life and not to RACE one’s way through it.
At a moment during the film, Ram Nikumbh (Aamir Khan) while speaking to his friend expresses his disgust at the way parents insist on their children topping every nook and corner of their competitive world. He shrugs – “Rather than having kids, why don’t they breed horses if all they want is to have them lead a life of racing.” It is a truth of our world, sad or not is a great debate, that it is competitive in every which way one looks at it. The film is full of heart, almost brimming with childlike naivety and understandably rebukes this truth. I respect, immensely, how the film goes about its stand on the argument. But, in what was a moment where I was found desperately praying to happen otherwise, the film arrives at the conclusion that the best way to highlight the specialty of the dyslexic kid Ishaan Awasthi (Darsheel Safary) is to reduce it to the very competitive streak it so vociferously reproaches. In this case, it is an obligatory art competition. And that made me sad no end. I felt sorry, extremely, because this is a fine film. A very fine directorial debut by a person who knows cinema like the back of one’s hand, a person who understands the unheralded boundaries of the medium and conjures up little tricks like a true master. And neither this film nor he remotely deserve this self-contradiction when moments before that trite sequence lay a scene that is pure magic, pure cinematic magic. The magical scene I’m talking about is when the Ram and Ishaan look at each other’s paintings, and I wish it all somehow ended there. Every little brush stroke driven by every little kid’s imagination out there is worth something. One can never trivialize them by quantifying them in a competitive mood. The part about movie reviewing I loathe right down to my living guts is the stars. How can I quantify that a film that has affected me is worth so many stars, and hence I pay the least possible attention to it. I guess the uninhibited strokes of a kid’s brush and the multiple colors on his palette do not in the least deserve a competition. No sir, and since I hugely admire Aamir Khan’s intellect I would like to know why he went for that. More so, when he takes great pains to take us through the multiple creations, obviously signaling the importance he holds for them. He delivers a simplistic film so full of heart, yet in the final moments commits an act of pragmatism – a competition that in my opinion indicates resigning to the hard fact of life. Maybe.
Most films concerning the special-case scenario tend to be a third-person narrative where I find myself rarely empathizing, forget sympathizing. Aamir Khan though, through his assortment of trite emotional tricks and clichéd uninteresting characters blended magically with the best of intentions and great usage of the medium, takes us right into the kid’s life. On more than one occasion, he manages in letting us feel the moment – through effective slow motions, mostly judicious usage of background score and most importantly taking us up, close and personal with the protagonist. In almost every sequence the focus is on Ishaan, obviously for it is his story, and the camera blurs everything else in the background. We only need to see the kid, and feel him. There’re beautiful, real beautiful moments scattered all over the place punctuated by real beautiful words from the songs. Young Ishaan, alone and lonely in the Boarding school, is crying no end. Yet, as if resolving to take on another fight in his life, as he has courageously done till now, he opens the tap with trembling hands and wipes the tears of his face. The mother is devastated when she sees a painting by her son that speaks of his insecurity. Most films just shoot such a sequence. Taare Zameen Par captures it in its entire poignant beauty. There’s a difference between emotional and melodramatic. This film is the former almost its entire team with only the briefest of gratuitous forays into the latter. One such element is the father and I can never comprehend what drives a scriptwriter or a director to even etch out such a trite, cardboard character. The father is the very definition of lackluster character development, rather there’s nothing to be developed. Two-dimensional things grow only in the X and Y direction and they are never growing towards us. The mother, for some inane reason, fluctuates between a solid character and a filmy one, so often portrayed in TV serials in all her glory. The treatment that the elder brother’s character gets is why I will never think of this film too highly. Showing the protagonist special is one thing but showing it at the expense of the triviality of a ‘common’ element is rather shallow. As much as the film professes that it loves its kids, the elder brother’s development makes me doubt that for a moment. The kid seems to be picked by almost everyone. A kid, who asks Ishaan to retrieve a cricket ball, decides to beat him. The sequence is handled shabbily, rather the picking on the kid part is grossly overdone.
Though it is very well done, I wasn’t exactly impressed by Darsheel Safary’s performance. It was good but it was a touch contriving-overdone. It seems an effort was made to make the boy as cute and endearing as possible, and I felt aware of that effort. Rendering a character endearing is charm and that charm can never be bought. Safary is more than good in the film, but somehow the overall package of him smelt of contrivance. Maybe it has something to do with his bugs-bunny teeth. Kindly have a look at the attached image, in case you already haven’t watched the film, and see what I’m talking about. Come to think of it why does it need for a special-case to look, you know, ‘special’?
I wish I had the opportunity to appreciate the thematic elements of the film, the finer nuances. I just happen to feel sorry that I recommend the film, heavily, as only a solid entertainer. Often clichéd, often trite yet a strong entertainer. Rather a great entertainer. I just might visit it again. I will visit it again, for the sheer joy in its moments, for the sheer goodness of its tale, for the love that pours when the eyes exchange glances – the child and his hero. Every child has one, desires one. A hero as a friend. I often wished to have T-101 by my side, as a friend, always by my side. When you look among the crowd you desire to see those eyes, always for you, and it has been my father. Good lord, can someone give me a handkerchief. And while you’re at it, please help me with these stars.





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7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Good job
Have some sleep ...you look tired

T

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Perx said...

While you are right at some places about the negative points in the film, but i'd like to contradict three of them:

1. Why do we need a special kid?
We need a special kid to make the film interesting, to give it a story, to give it an edge, otherwise it would just be a documentary.

2. Darsheel's acting
Well, everyone has his own point of view, but i found his performance very natural and could not see him trying to act, as you said.

3. The competition
Yes, aamir does say that competition is bad, but we have to live in this bad world, and that competition was organized to make ishan more confident that he can also compete and win, that he is good, it was to increase his self respect and a way for him to know that he is good at something, which was very important after his breakdown, and at last because the world is about competitions at each level, bad they may be, and ishan has to have a fighting spirit.

Anonymous said...

Personally, I would go for 4 stars, but I completely respect your view. In fact, I'm probably only going for a 4 because it's a hindi film and unfortunately it's an industry that needs to take some leniency. TZP is a movie begging to go even deeper than it does (I actually thought Amir would try to be even more unconventional than this. I could think of much more stronger, different ways to bring out the ideas of this film. I was surprised at all these scenes where songs took over), but for Indian audiences I think it's a great step. I love Amir even more now for presenting this kind of movie to the Indian masses. If it had been done more strangely or unconventionally it would have been shunned in it's homeland. It presents idea that I've always felt like announcing to India from space with a giant megaphone, many Indians need to hear these messages. Also, it's nice to know that people in this industry believe kids still exist and can be shown smart and well made films that even adults can enjoy and learn from. Or maybe this is the other way around, it's mainly a film adults should watch but kids can also watch, for once. Either way, this is a film everyone can watch and learn from.

What I'm saying is, compared to what's in Indian cinema, this is one of the best films ever. It's one of my favorite films from 2007 (some others are Dharm, Blue Umbrella, No Smoking, Black Friday, 1971, and Guru). Direction is one thing, but it's story and its teachings are good, work, and are important for Indian society today. It's only good in some ways, but it's great in other ways too, from different perspectives.

And for Amir's debut Direction... wow. I knew he was a great actor, but that rarely translates into competent direction so I didn't expect this.

Sunil Kamat said...

dude, you are so bad in giving stars. i have a huge collection of english movies and some selected hindi. 4.5 stars for 1408? that movie looked like its gonna scare the shit out of me but when he entered, there ended my belief. the movie sucked. i was craving for atleast one horror moment where i get scared. 4.5 stars? he he..
TZP is an excellent movie made. It is no less than 4.5stars. compared to the latest trend in bollywood movies, this has no comparison. 3.5 for this one? funny. stars given to i am legend was right or may be u guessed it right. anyways, happy viewing. one movie fan to other :)

Anonymous said...

Amazing review Satish ....

Compliments



Kamal

Sadanand said...

I loved the movie except Aamir Khan's
acting.His acting is the weak link of the film.I love Aamir as an actor but here he just isn't Ram Shankar Nikumbh I was expecting.The character is very loose and unconvincing.It would have been nice to see this character on the lines of John Keating(Robin Williams) in Dead Poets Society or Dan Dunne(Ryan Gosling)in Half Nelson as a teacher with different teaching philosophies.