Being Aamir's directorial debut, one was sure "Taare Zameen Par (2007)" would be a didactic film. Somehow, Aamir never sets out to just tell a story or make a movie; the social message is never far away. He would almost be a Shyam Benegal if not for the dollops of humor he manages to sprinkle in his movies. The archaic belief that humor stains the “purity” of a serious message is the biggest mistake made, I feel, by "art movie" makers. A brilliant work like "Khoya Khoya Chand (2007)" was ruined by its droning pace and monotonic atmosphere. You look forward to Aamir’s cinema because he uses humor, songs-- even pretty heroines-- to make sure his serious cinema is taken seriously!
The movie is straightforward. Tells the story of a misunderstood dyslexic kid who leads a tortured life till new Teacher Aamir uncle comes and makes everything OK. Everyone is sorry they treated him bad. Happy ending! Blah Blah.
Hardly a spoiler, would you say?
What I was not ready for was the dollops of tears that forced their way out of my eyes. I am a "Kill Bill (2003)" type of viewer and any movie with less than 100 explosions and 35 gallons of blood is usually not worth my while. Imagine my surprise when TZP easily squeezed those emotions I never knew I had. So much for predictability!
What makes it stick with you is the uncanny acting of the kid. I must commend Aamir's direction, in the absence of any other reason, to get so many kids to act so naturally. Move over, Mr.India! The repressed anger, the fear, the small joys and the yearning to belong. Ishaan displays everything so effortlessly it would put many matinee idols to shame. He manages all this without being corny or melodramatic.
Then there is Setu's photography that captures the tiny details we all remember having watched as kids. Then forgotten in the rush to to attend the next con-call. Like the ripples made in a puddle after a car runs over, the aggressive spray of shower in the bathroom ("c'mon, you wanna fight? c'mon!!"), the miracle of watching "ice gola" being made at Juhu beach... the kaagaz ki kashtis, the baarish ka paanis...
Finally there is Prasoon Joshi. The only reason one would watch this (like, RDB) many times over-- in theatres! Simple, non-complicated (Gulzarji, you listening?) and pedestrian lyrics. Stuff you can identify with, stuff that makes so much sense and yet sounds so poetic! Funny and sad at the same time. Added to Shankar Ehsaan Loy's music and Ram Madhvani’s (of "Let's Talk (2002)" fame) cameo direction, each song tells a story.
The innovative start credits and lovely collage during end-credits are not to be missed. The movie got a standing ovation at the
I hope it sensitizes Indian schools and society to treat all children as mere “children”. We have to let them enjoy the colors and miracle of nature that adult life requires us to ignore. I loved this movie not so much for its message on dyslexia (although it makes a powerful statement) as for how it reminded me that I was a kid once. It reminded me how I wished those damn adults would just “understand”! I remembered how I’d decided to remember my childhood and not change into an “adult”.
Now that I have a kid of my own, TZP is just what I needed to make sure I treat my little star with the respect he deserves and not as a “race horse”.