Come to think of it, after two back-to-back hits [RANG DE BASANTI, FANAA], Aamir Khan could've given a positive nod to any masala flick and chosen to work with anyone he desired. But he preferred to make a film on a dyslexic kid, make him the focal point of the story and don three caps -- producer, actor and director.
At the very outset, let's make one thing clear. TAARE ZAMEEN PAR isn't one of those films that merely entertains, but also enlightens. TAARE ZAMEEN PAR is one film that makes you peep into a child's mind and how some parents, in their pursuit to make them 'stronger' academically, forget that there's hitherto untapped talent that needs to be nourished and encouraged.
TAARE ZAMEEN PAR drives home a strong message, making you empathize with the kid, compelling you to draw parallels with your life, making one realize that some of the renowned geniuses were once scoffed at, but the world had to bow down to their intellect later.
Sure, TAARE ZAMEEN PAR boasts of a story that strikes a chord, but most importantly, it has been treated with such sensitivity and maturity that you're left shell-shocked in amazement by the sheer impact it leaves at the end of this 18 reeler.
TAARE ZAMEEN PAR heralds the birth of a topnotch storyteller -- Aamir Khan. To choose a story that's a far cry from the mundane stuff that's being churned out like factory products, requires courage and conviction and to execute it with panache is a rarity.
Those who somewhere nursed a grudge that the camera follows Aamir in all his films, will chew their words once they watch TAARE ZAMEEN PAR. Yes, Aamir has a key role to portray as an actor, but the camera captures the child's emotions like never before in a Hindi film. Also, let's also clear the myth about TAARE ZAMEEN PAR being a kiddie film. It's not! It's about children. Note the difference!
In a nutshell, TAARE ZAMEEN PAR serves as a wake up call for every parent or parent-to-be. Also, it heralds the arrival of a magnificent storyteller -- Aamir Khan. At the end of the day, it's not difficult to choose who's better -- Aamir, the actor or Aamir, the director. TAARE ZAMEEN PAR is a triumph all the way from the director's point of view.
Ishaan Awasthi [Darsheel Safary] is an eight-year-old whose world is filled with wonders that no one else seems to appreciate; colors, fish, dogs and kites are just not 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 separation from his family.
One day a new art teacher bursts onto the scene, Ram Shankar Nikumbh [Aamir Khan], 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.
On face-value, TAARE ZAMEEN PAR looks like a kiddie film, but as the story unfolds, you realize that the story peeps into the mind and heart of a kid, his interests, his hobbies, his strengths and weaknesses. The director opens the cards at the very outset, when you realize that the kid is just not interested in books/studies. And his interaction with his stern father, doting mother and lovable brother is straight out of life.
A number of sequences in the first hour leave you spellbound --
- Ishaan's altercation with the neighboring kid over a cricket ball;
- Ishaan's parents' decision of putting him in a hostel and Ishaan's constant pleas falling on deaf ears;
- Ishaan going into a shell in the boarding school, looking disinterested in life. Also, the art teacher punishing him for his inattentive behavior.
There are several moments in the first hour that make you moist-eyed. The bonding between the mother and son is remarkable. These moments effectively capture the special bonding, making you realize that a mother's mere touch can act like a soothing balm on a troubled soul.
Aamir takes the courageous stand of placing the story on Ishaan's shoulders right through the first hour and not once do you feel that the kid doesn't have the power to keep your attention arrested.
The second hour is equally challenging and most importantly, motivating. The introduction of Aamir's character, Aamir spotting the indolent Ishaan, Aamir traveling to Mumbai to meet Ishaan's parents and then citing examples of extra-ordinary men who were ridiculed by their contemporaries/peers -- these moments linger in your memory even after the show has concluded.
But the best part is reserved for the finale -- the art competition in the penultimate twenty minutes. The emotions reach an all-time high as the kid regains his confidence. The finale would melt even the stone-hearted!
Directorially, Aamir Khan deserves distinction marks for extracting an exemplary performance from the kid and handling the plot with supreme sensitivity. In his debut film itself, Aamir proves that he's a gifted storyteller, someone who has the courage to swim against the tide and also convince the viewer that there's more to film-making than the mere masala entertainers. Bravo!
Setu's cinematography is mesmeric. The camera captures every minute detail, every emotion, every tear with precision. Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy's music is easy on the ears. 'Bum Bum Bole', 'Jame Raho' and the title track are first-rate compositions. Prasoon Joshi's lyrics in 'Maa' deserve special mention. Editing [Deepa Bhatia] does justice to the material. Only thing, the film, if trimmed [second hour], will only be more impactful. Animation and visual effects are fantastic.
TAARE ZAMEEN PAR belongs to Master Darsheel Safary. A performance that make the best of performances pale in comparison. A performance that deserves brownie points. A performance that'll always come first on your mind the moment someone mentions TAARE ZAMEEN PAR. A performance that's impeccable, flawless and astounding. A performance that moves you and makes you reflect on your growing years. A performance that merits a special award!
Aamir is excellent. Note his scenes with the father of the kid. First, when he visits their home. Next time, when he cites the example of Solomon Islands. Splendid! Tisca Chopra is outstanding. Here's an actress who needs to be lapped up in a big way by film-makers.
Tanay Cheda [as Ishaan's friend Rajan Damodaran] is excellent. Vipin Sharma [Ishaan's father] is slightly theatrical. Sachet Engineer [Ishaan's elder brother] is apt. The teachers have performed well.
On the whole, TAARE ZAMEEN PAR is an outstanding work of cinema. To miss it would be sacrilege. It has everything it takes to win awards and box-office rewards!
Do yourselves a favor. Watch TAARE ZAMEEN PAR with your child. It will change your world. It will also change the way you look at your kids!