‘Taare Zameen Par’ -An Exceptional Film

Very rarely do you get to see such great films that touch your heart and make you a better person. Hats off to Aamir Khan for giving us an exceptional film. Exceptional, because it serves the higher purpose of art, cinema in this case.

‘Taare Zameen Par’ is about a little boy, or shall I say a little flower that has been nipped so many times in the bud that it begins to wilt. But then comes the gardener, the man who lets, and helps, the bud to flower fully.

Ishaan Awasthi ( Darsheel Safary ), an eight-year-old naughty kid is often scolded and scorned at by his teachers and parents for being poor in studies. Life and its joy begin to seep out of him under the burden of the expectations of his parents (his demanding father, in particular) and teachers.

Through the bars of his classroom window he often sees nature and life outside in its natural and free progression. He gets to taste this freedom for one single day when he bunks the school for not getting his test papers signed from his parents.

Punishment – much against Ishaan’s wish, his father sends him to a boarding school, where whatever little glimmer of life’s joy that remained in Ishaan begins to fade away. And he even turns his back to his passion for painting.

But then comes a new arts teacher in the boarding school. Ram Nikumbh (Aamir Khan) knows how to reach out to children and make the process of learning enjoyable for them. He spots the silent and brooding Ishaan in class and decides to help the boy.

The rest of the film is about how the shattered confidence of Ishaan is restored and how he overcomes his disabilities and how he even surpasses his teacher in his favourite passion – painting.

‘Taare Zameen Par’ is a film made with enormous sense and sensibility. The story by Amole Gupte never intends to arouse in you sympathy for kids with lesser abilities. Rather it gives examples of great personalities, scientists and artists, to drive home the point that even a dyslexic child has a great potential.

The film is full of amazing moments that will make your eyes well up. An angry, bleeding and helpless Ishaan runs to the terrace of his building after being beaten by other kids. Or when his father slaps him after finding out that he bunked from school. Or how Ishaan keeps running around the sports ground in silent anger and frustration when his parents visit him in the boarding school. Or how Ishaan tries to hide his face when his arts teacher spots him kneeling in punishment outside a classroom. The killer scene comes in the end when Ishaan’s talent gets recognition and everybody looks out for him but he sits fearfully hidden in a crowd of children.

Darsheel Safary is the real hero of the film. No two thoughts about it. Aamir Khan is the second fiddle.

It is incredibly difficult to make a child act. And how good a job Aamir has done as the director is apparent from the stunning performance he has extracted out of Darsheel. In my opinion, Darsheel’s performance is the best we have seen from any male actor this year in Bollywood, including the Khans and Bachchans. The range Darsheel brings about in his character – from notoriety to vulnerability, and from buoyancy to lifelessness – is truly the work of a genius. Writer Amole Gupte and Aamir Khan have found a diamond in Darsheel.

Aamir, the dependable Khan, is up to his credentials as an actor. But it is as the director that he scores. Aamir has handled the subject with great sensitivity. His cinema is not about style but substance. Without straying into the usual trappings of a regular Bollywood film and at the same time blending the superb songs by Shankar Ehsaan Loy smoothly in the narrative, Aamir keeps TZP focused solely on the story and its essence.

And what a story it is. Amole Gupte deserves no less credit for penning such a touching tale. It is a story that shows the helplessness of a kid who is not able to perform tasks that are beyond his abilities. It also shows the lack of understanding on part of teachers and parents while dealing with such kids. And, last but not the least, it is a story of hope. It is a story that not just touches you but also transforms you. That, for me, is the higher purpose of art. And that is precisely why ‘Taare Zameen Par’ is an exceptional film.

Rating: ****1/2