How I wish we all had teachers like Aamir khan to shape our lives. Taare Zameen Par is a movie about a young boy battling not only with a condition, but against certain principles and dichotomy of the society. I guess, all of us, who have grown up in such milieu understand the problems and moments tied together in the film. The sheer burden of competition, the inevitable comparison with your sibling are few things which does ring true to how the society generally functions on the large, especially, the middle and the upper middle class belt of our society; people who are not laden with money and have worked their way through the ranks, and for them education means above art and things. Here earning daily bread is more important then understanding Tyeb Mehta.
Taare Zameen Par is a story about a boy(Ishaan) who suffers from dyslexia. His condition is not understood by his peers in school or parents. It’s finally a teacher in a boarding school who comes to the child rescue and saves him. “Every child is special”, is the tagline of Taare Zameen Par, and the film begins with a special animation sequence which is intertwined very well with the flow of the script to represent the fantasy and the unconscious mind of a child, which the film is severely trying to portray. Surprisingly, what I really liked about the sequences was how well it was animated. Judging from the standard of our “Animation Industry” the animation was above par, and the characters were alive and kicking, and it brought out a smile on my face.
Aamir Khan was politically correct when he said, “Amitabh Bachhan acting was sub- par in Black”; as a matter of fact, it was pathetic. How does one come to the conclusion of comparing and deeming performance between good and bad? The answer is by looking back at the work of the performer and filmmaker. At the same time, looking and comparing with other works in the genre or theme. After all, cinema does not exist in vacuum; we are a movie crazy nation, but one illiterate mass about the medium. So, then, how do we map out the performance of the lead character Ishaan Awasthi (Darsheel Safary)? Is he good enough to refuse an award? Or is he simply following the footsteps of his Mahatma? Only time would tell. This being his first film, the acting is seen or analyzed by the way the actor moulds the character and grows over the course. Since he is a kid, with no prior knowledge of the schools of acting; he is mainly following orders and behaving on instincts. When the movie begins, his acting along with his father in the film appears stiff and conscious. But people fail to notice the stiffness, awkwardness and over acting early on in the film. Because even before the film begins, full marks has already been awarded to the child actor, in other words- emotions over rule judgment, and that marks the hollowness in judgment. And we stop looking. When the story moves from the shaky beginning, which though establishes the family members, and allows us to be familiar with the character- is nothing less then ordinary, by this I mean, everyone appears like a puppet, just blabbering out lines and acting in a robotic manner, with an exception for the scene where Ishaan climbs up the stairs and stands in the terrace not able to judge his own feeling. His emotions in that particular shot show the signs for things to come. But even before the shot could offer something out of it, the filmmaker decides to jump to the next scene.
Places where the shot should stay to allow us to understand emotions, or give us something profound and important it never does. Finally, when the story moves to the school he slowly starts slipping in the character, but the sign of growth comes when the story shifts to the boarding school. Darsheel Safray performance is remarkable in the film, because he grows with the film. His acting can be seen in the same class of Haley Joel Osment in The Sixth Sense. And can be spoken in the same breath of remarkable child performance in movies like Children of Heaven, Ten, Apple or When I turned Nine.
There is something morally incorrect how the father is portrayed in the film, this is something which I hold against the script and the way the character is shown and portrayed in the film. The father overacts a number of times (not only the acting is stiff and pathetic, but a number of times he simply over reacts for nothing). This is a tool of alienating the kid further and making the circle complete for the misunderstood kid; whom no one can understand- and the filmmaker is on the verge of the jackpot, cause by now the audience(is all in awe) not only with the film, but is oblivious of alienating the good from the bad. The father character in the film is an important figure along with the kid and the teacher played by Aamir Khan who control and determine the conflicts and resolution in the film. The mother on the hand is simply a silent mute spectator.
The father from the beginning is portrayed in such evil manner and such bad light that his final confrontation with himself and the reality of his son seems farce- we knew this would happen. As the coldness shown by him throughout the film is something totally incorrect when focusing on the social class portrayed in the film, perhaps, the filmmaker and the scriptwriter had zeroed down on a certain exception family, but even in such exception love does not cease. I found it very disturbing when Ishaan hugs his father on return, but he is too busy with his newspaper, or when his mother calls, and yet he is busy with his work. It seems that work plays an important role of alienating kids, but no matter how busy parents are they don’t show lack of sympathy; as the character played by the father. That’s the reason when his father comes to meet Aamir Khan in school and is moved; rather, has some sort of revelation, and walks down the flight of stairs only to see his son standing near the- notice board, his guts and morale fail him to go and hug him. The scene is laden with emotion on the surface, but if you look two steps below it’s so hollow and fake that it does not seem right at all. After all, everything till now was boiling down for this.
Aamir Khan smoothly slips into the role of the “The Miracle Worker”, the art teacher who solves the problem. His role in the film is no different from the one played by Amitabh Bachchan in Black. He understand the kid in the film, because he too as a child suffered from the same problem and faced similar situation, and who else could understand it better than him. I find it strange that our characters in films fall back on something for their deeds, acts, and understanding, whether good or bad. What I mean by this is why can’t it be that an ‘Art teacher’ who never suffered from the same problem understands the kid? Is it that he can’t? I’m sure he can, after all, there are so many cases of dyslexia and not that everyone one of them get an ‘Art Teacher’ who suffered from the same problem. Then again, Bollywood works on exception, the famous saying, “Well this can happen too”, true, it can, and it’s been happening from the dawn of Bollywood. Aamir Khan then fights against odds and solves the problem- talking to the principle, giving him the needed encouragement, talking to his parents and quoting from Oscar Wilde to Picasso.
The boarding school has always been portrayed in a wrong light, and these films sticks to the same cliché of stereotyping the place. The colorful stereotype teachers of “Bollywood Universe” are well present in this film too. I spent all my life in boarding school, and I do understand what it means to be studying there, that’s the reason my favorite scene from the film is when his parents leave him and go, and he stands there watching the car disappear. It did remind me of my childhood in boarding, but at the same, it highlighted something false about the notion of boarding school, as we were always encouraged in our arts class (and boarding schools are known for their emphasis on overall growth). So, when, Aamir Khan is keeping the paintings in the staff- room, and the teachers point out the uselessness of art and craft over academia, the scene not only presented completely false state of affairs of the boarding school, but also presented another cliché. I understood the fact that even though Amol Gupte (Script), Aamir Khan (Direction), Darsheel Safray (Lead Actor) were working towards making a “Great Film” it falls flat in the face because of such clichés present in the film; stereotyping anything and everything from the strict father to the notion of art, and giving and impression of boarding school as jail, a place where freedom cease to exist.
As for Aamir Khan’s all hail direction work. He joins the ranks of being just another craftsman the level could range from, master to amateur in the industry, but not a creator. The craftsman, are similar to the “Car Mechanics” we have, who know their job and can pull and put a car together, but they would never qualify as an automobile engineer per se. There is nothing new to talk about in the way he directs, that would qualify him as the next big “Director” to look out for. I fail to understand why the media hail him in such light. Is conveying the story with so many lazy montage- sequences the next step towards being called the next visionary director, or it’s the way his mise-en-scene worked. I wonder what they mean when they lay down such praise. He has the money, the people, acting(which is good ), and like many other actors turned director he can take the plunge; but, definitely, he just like many other actors turned directors, his films reflect technical know how, or show emotional depth, but lack the vision of a creator.
The film ends with all three principal characters finding their respective path, the child – his acceptance and himself, the father – his son and the art teacher completes the work of the catalyst(even Ishan’s hairstyle is part of it) to bring out a harmony. Finally, when Darsheel Sahfray at the end of the film, runs towards Aamir Khan, and the pace of the image decreases while the music beats gets louder as he approaches into Aamir Khan’s arms and he lifts him in the air- with the shot finally ending with a freeze frame. It’s at the precise moment the image of Jean Pierre Leaud running towards the beach with the camera slowly tracking him, and the shot ending with the freeze frame came to my mind. The mise-en-scene of both films show the difference between films deemed as masterpiece, The 400 Blows, and a film Taare Zameen Par a good film. Where the former resonates sentiments and emotions even a 10 years boy in India would understand without a device of manipulation. And the latter would evoke emotions simply because we feel pity for the poor sick kid whom no one understood, who suffered from a problem- and won our hearts.
The film belongs to two people, first and foremost Amole Gupte, this is his film and secondly to Darsheel Safary. Akira Kurosawa once said, “A good script even a third rate director can direct, and a bad script even a first rate director would fumble”. Taare Zameen Par heart and soul lies on the written text, what we see on the screen are what are written on paper. Indian Cinema is not known for its school of improvisation. So the translated image is from the written text, and even though the script really out shines what we see; it has its sheer flaws and weakness; in keeping up with the tradition of presenting certain clichés and stereotypes, that guide the course of the film, and this really stops the film from crossing the silver line of becoming a masterpiece, and it ends up being just another feel-good-film from Bollywood.
I wonder how the film would have turned out had Amol Gupte directed the film. I guess, it’s just a romantic notion on my part, as I see the film in completely different light, meaning, it could have been a great film. It had the actor, it had a script, money, power unfortunately no visionary or creator, that’s the reason with all its tall claims and moments, all in all, it’s just another brick in the wall. After all, in the end, it took another competition to put back Ishaan into the sane competitive world and finally accepted. Ironic, isn’t…?