Time and again, certain movies have proved that film-makers do not have to lower their standards to make a commercial success of their ventures. The average audience is willing and wanting to make that extra effort required to understand films that are in a classical mould. The latest example of such a movie which has substituted ‘mission’ for ‘masala’ is Taare Zameen Par, a Hindi film from India, which is still running to packed houses, several months after its release.
The film is a pragmatic portrayal of how we, as a people, deal with abnormalities in otherwise normal people. We seldom pause to think that the abnormalities may actually be symptoms of a deeper malaise or a disorder.
Taare Zameen Par has single-handedly created awareness at all levels – from the grassroots to policy-makers – about the existence of learning disabilities in children, the need for counselling parents and teachers on how to identify and deal with children suffering from these disabilities, and the importance of sensitising society to treat such children with greater compassion.
This story by Amol Gupte revolves around a dyslexic child. The child is considered ‘difficult’ by everyone – parents, teachers, friends, society – as none realises that the child is suffering from a learning disability. A young, new teacher who comes into the life of the child proves a blessing in disguise. As someone who has suffered from dyslexia himself, he is able to empathise with the child’s fears and problems. He is also able to help the child combat the disorder and help others in the child’s life understand that it is not a debilitating disorder but one that can be conquered with appropriate interventions.
Using the power of the visual medium with exemplary finesse is the film’s producer-director, Aamir Khan. He has, undoubtedly, raised the ‘Bollywood’ bar for good films several notches high. In an extremely rare meeting of mind and heart, he has made both an intelligent film and an eloquent one that plays on the heartstrings of every viewer and forces each and every one to look at the people who make the world around them from a new perspective.
Reports from India indicate that there is a sudden surge in the number of cases being referred to professionals dealing with learning disabilities in children. Not only has the film made dyslexia a household name, it has also made it clear that learning disabilities and mental retardation are two very different conditions. With the discussion the film has opened up, there is bound to be greater awareness that mental disability is not a taboo topic and is indeed eminently treatable.
The casting is perfect, and each and every actor brings the characters so much to life that they live with us long after the movie. The young, dyslexic boy, Ishaan Awasthi’s role is essayed with unusual flair by Darsheel Safary. The teacher who helps the boy is the supremely talented producer-director of the film himself – Aamir Khan. The parents of the boy – Tisca Chopra as Maya Awasthi, the mother, and Vipin Sharma as the father – also need special mention.
The only complaint I have about the film is that the background images both during the ‘titles’ in the beginning and the ‘credits’ at the end are so engaging that one can hardly take one’s eyes off to read the names of the people who have put their heart and soul into the making of this wonderful film.