Taare Zameen Par: Goodbye 2007

It had been quite a while Aditi and I had seen a movie in a theater together. If my memory serves me right, it was Spiderman, 2003. The last Hindi flick was Lagaan, 2001. Today, after a long time, we went to see a movie. It is called “Taare Zameen Par”. It was a movie that made me cry.

I was crying to get out.

It can be considered political suicide to say anything negative or even diplomatically stay neutral about this move. The blogosphere and the internet is full of superb comments about the film. I am told Aamir’s blog has over 3000 comments. Not been there, so I cannot provide the link – hence please google that yourself.

I think there is seriously something wrong with me. Maybe this warrants a visit to a psychiatrist ? Let me declare outright that I am not a not a movie critic and I do not have much fancy for Bollywood movies.

But for the life of me, I cannot find what is so superb about the movie.

This movie will make anybody cry for sure. Who would not cry, locked up in a dark room, subjected to the sad fate of a sweet, slightly odd-looking kiddo, unloved by his teachers, unloved by his father, beaten by bullies. We may not like Hindi commercial flicks, but we are still humane. See ?

The most heard comment on reviews I read on the net is that, “It’s not like other Bollywood movies“. When a movie’s starts asserting its greatness by not being like other (Bollywood) movies, not the usual inane fights, item-number cabaret and fully-faltoo plots; there is something which is grossly wrong. You cannot be great by simply being better. That way, you are simply better.

The first half of the movie is rather unwatchable. The usual story of a child who is a truant, not good at studies and a little “abnormal” as they say, who is bullied by others, suffers routine punishment at the hands of his insensitive teachers and hyper-competitive dad. Uggggh. Grow up.

I am not denying that this does not happen. We’ve all been there; being made to stand outside class for looking out of the window, scaling the school walls and bunking school for not having done our homework or signed out test copies. And teacher’s were rather sadistic. If you want to see or hear true artistic depiction of the boilerplate brutality of schooling systems, may I recommend you to an album called The Wall by a psychedelic and somewhat legendary rock group called the Pink Floyd.

Pink Floyd — yes sir, that is poetry. Mostly Barett, Ezrin, Waters.

Talk bastard teachers:

When we grew up and went to school
There were certain teachers who would
Hurt the children in any way they could
“OOF!” [someone being hit]
By pouring their derision
Upon anything we did
And exposing every weakness
However carefully hidden by the kids
But in the town, it was well known
When they got home at night, their fat and
Psychopathic wives would thrash them
Within inches of their lives.

Talk pain inside a child:

I’ve got a little black book with my poems in
Got a bag with a toothbrush and a comb
When I’m a good dog, they sometimes throw me a bone in.
I got elastic bands keepin’ my shoes on
Got those swollen hand blues
Got thirteen channels of shit on the T.V. to choose from
I’ve got electric light
And I’ve got second sight
And amazing powers of observation
And that is how I know
When I try to get through
On the telephone to you
There’ll be nobody home

Contrast this with utterly schmaltzy, second class, crass lyrics by Prasoon Joshi. The less said the better. The problem is that these lyrics do really stand out when the competition is “Where’s the party tonight?”

The lyrics will make you cry but that’s because of the Ehsaan-Loy-Shankar music and singing, which is one of the saving grace of this film. Most of the tunes are very hummable and nice; albeit some of them are too much in your face. I especially liked the “Ishaan’s Theme” – that piece has some melodic and surprising chord changes. And there is a song (I don’t know the name and I really don’t care) which plays in the background while the final, climactic Art Mela goes on — that number is nice.

Bum Bum Bole — I hear you ask? Oh my God ! Govinda should have made a cameo appearance on that number. Amazingly bad lyrics and exceedingly rotten cinematography tussle with each other in that scene. Especially with the camera focussing so often on Ishaan to show that he is not enjoying thus trying to bring in the element of contrast. Heyyylp !!!! There is a word in the English language called “subtlety“, will Bollywood ever show an appreciation of that?

Post intermission, the film becomes a little bit more edible. It’s tough not to be crying with both Darsheel Safary and Aamir Khan having tears in their eyes most of the time. At times, Aamir Khan looks more like a red-eyed drunkard than crying.

And oh boy, did they really need to put that “Aamir Khan Productions” logo before the start of the movie. Aamir Khan is a good looking gentleman, no doubt, and I say that with a fair amount of jealousy. But, seldom will you come across so much close-up shot of a single actor in a movie. Actually, you can clearly make out the developing crow’s feet next to his eyes in some of the scenes. Morgan Freeman looks good that way, not Aamir Khan. Clearly makes you understand whose money is talking, duh !

Phew, I am starting to feel bad spewing so much venom and I am sure I have lost half my readers. Anyway, there were some things in the movie that I liked a lot. Tisca Chopra was amazing and very well directed. (Yes, Mr. Khan can take appropriate credit for that.). Locales were very good. I am so happy the crew, for some reason, did not choose one of those upper-north-Dehradoon-type boarding schools. Now, that’s subtlety, intended or otherwise. The Panchgani area rendered itself to some nice pan shots.

The scene where Nikumbh visits Ishaan’s parent’sat their house and explains them the problem of dyslexia was a real nice scene. Really liked the tight script and cinematography there. Especially the bit where Nikumbh asks Ishaan’s father to read stuff from the toy box (labelled in Chinese). But I don’t believe the director would have Ishaan’s elder brother Yuhaan (about 14-15) in that scene. I mean think of it, parents discussing a sensitive psychological issue about their younger kid with a school teacher in front of their elder son ? I guess that’s Aamir/screenwriter’s inexperience showing through the zipper.

A large part of the movie feels like a prevent-child-labour documentary sponsored by the Ministry of Child Welfare. Utter rubbish (for a movie). No wonder they government decided to waive entertainment tax. The theaters are having fun. They reap the differential profit . But most people are too busy crying to ask for a refund. So much teardrop should not qualify as entertainment anyway.

The amount of positive reviews this film has generated is good. Goes to reaffirm my faith in the opposition of quality art and popularity. As Oscar Wilde puts it,

“Popularity is the crown of laurel which the world puts on bad art. Whatever is popular is wrong.”

Well by now, I must have made a lot of enemies. 2008 is not destined to be the year of friendship. Amen.

But with every ounce of honesty that’s still left in my heart, let me play a bit of a turncoat. I think every child should see this movie in a theater. There are some nice animation stuff in this movie. Most of it is nothing great, pretty much Cartoon Network style. But hey, kids don’t need or care about cubist Picasso (you got the joke, right ? ;-). The fun of seeing animation on a big screen is going to be absolutely fantastic. And them kids are going to love the bright colors. And them kids are going to feel good about some other kid in the movie catching fish from the gutter. Talk about being validated. So take your kids to this movie (I regret my daughter was not there).

Children will enjoy the buffoonery of the teachers. As Satyajit Ray said, on his characters Goopy and Baagha,

“Children enjoy it more when adults act stupid”

There was this kid called Laddoo sitting right next to us; he enjoyed the movie so much ! The only thing he hated was the intermission. His mother had to try might hard to convince other that other people have some legitimate biological demands to satisfy.

So, by all means watch this movie with family. Enjoy. Have a good time. Happy 2008 to you.

And next time you want to see a good, happy movie and wouldn’t mind a little uncomfortable lump in the throat try “Life is Beautiful” or “Essaye Moi“.



  1. You need to see a psychiatrist . You are an pretend American (or whatever) who detests everything Indian. No matter how good it is. Nevertheless, you need to go to a psychiatrist.

  2. brattybuddie @ yahoo.com: I agree on the psychiatrist part. Looking out.

    I could not help but observe that your email is a mash of two American slang words. That’s OK.

    What you need to understand is that this is not about an Indian movie or an American movie. Its about a good movie or a not-quite-so-good movie.

    Oh by the way, Pink Floyd was English, Life is Beautiful is Italian, and Essaye-moi is French. Satyajit Ray was Indian and Oscar Wilde was Irish.

    Have a good 2008.

  3. It is. If not, you would have mentioned movies and movie makers who are Indian. There are great Indian moviemakers besides the one the West has recogonized. I am not sure if you have heard of them though. Else they would have been mentioned here

  4. The way I have been defining this movie to frnds – live through the first two hours, wake up in the next half hour and see a decently tolerable movie in the last hour.
    What my frnds have told me – Be happy that such a movie has got recognition. That the (great) Indian audience is talking about something other than OSO and some ppl’s abs.

    My sad experience with Bollywood – they dont try to do better (they can). Indian audience (the almost whole 1 billion of them) care for loud well marketed sagas of bull. So it works if you make such movies. If animation for foreign movies is done in India, why arent Indian animation films tighter, crisper, more indepth – enough to rivala Pixar? Because they dont want to – even when free tips are available.

    I saw the movie, I see the hype, I decided not to point out the negatives too much. At least its better than TV time devoted to OSO and Saawaria and the likes?!
    But yeah, the movie can easily do with a LOT of editing, a better grasp on creativity etc. I mean, copy Calvin – but do it better! 10 mins on a math problem on which a normal C&H strip spends 3 panels is a tad too much right? right!

  5. PS – please dont drag in Floyd ^^ they dont deserve such comparison. Same goes for La vita e Bella – a pathbreaking movie.

    This one is about more of a mentally challenged boy than a dyslexic. and its India Cinema. RIP

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