Sunday, December 23, 2007

Taare Zameen Par

[Stars on the earth, part of a phrase from the title song, "lest these stars not fall to the earth."] Bollywood star Aamir Khan's directing debut is a heart-warming and touching story with a consciousness-raising message much needed in a culture that almost uniformly treats disability as a curse.

The following is synopsis from the website:
Isaan Awasthi is an eight year old whose world is filled with wonders that no one else seems to appreciate; colours, fish, dogs and kites are just not as important in the world of adults, who are much more interested in things like homework, marks and neatness. And Ishaan just cannot seem to get anything right in class.

When he gets into far more trouble than his parents can handle, he is packed off to a boarding school to 'be disciplined.' Things are no different at his new school and Ishaan has to contend with the added trauma of his separation from family.

One day a new art teacher bursts onto the scene, Ram Shankar Nikumbh, who infects the students with joy and optimism. He breaks all the rules of 'how things are done' by asking them to think, dream, and imagine, and all the children respond with enthusiasm, all except Ishaan. Nikumbh soon realizes that Ishaan is very unhappy, and he sets out to discover why. With time, patience and care, he ultimately helps Ishaan find himself.
Fantastic photography, a great score and soundtrack, and stunning performances, especially by Darsheel Safary playing Ishaan. Of cousre, this is Bollywood, so there are song-and-dance sequences (even in the classroom); subtlety is unheard of, and the screenplay often takes a stridently didactic tone. And yes, there are shades of "Dead Poets Society" as well.

I loved it! And at the end of the performance, I don't think there was a single dry eye in the house. [Some comedic relief was provided by my five-year old nephew: in a scene at the end, as Ishaan's father starts crying, he pipes up, "Oh, he's started crying too?" :)]

And a very pro-life message as well. (Though not in the overly politicized way that that phrase evokes in the US.)

I was also reminded of Jo Mcgowan and the folks at LRMF up in Dehradun who do some heroic work battling stereotypes and raising awareness about the dignity of all God's children. [A post about my visit to Dehradun in August 2005.]

A piece in Outlook on TZP.

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