I must have seen hundreds of films in theatres by now but there are few films and experiences that I can still remember vividly, as if it happened just some time back. Taare Zameen Par, that completes 10 years today, is definitely one of them. Like most moviegoers, it’s a film close to my heart and I am ashamed that it’s a film that I was not sure would work!
In fact, December 21 was the day when the comic caper Welcome had released as well, also a fabulous entertainer. And yes, that was my first choice! Class 12 exams were nearing and I had thought of watching Taare Zameen Par later at a good opportunity. But the response it got was overwhelming and extremely positive. Everybody was raving about it like anything and I really got intrigued. Studies can wait, I told myself, and rushed to see what is about this film that has amazed the world! There had been instances wherein I haven’t liked films that the whole world did and I feared a repeat. But thankfully, Taare Zameen Par worked big time for me and still is one of my most favourite films.
Before we talk about its impact and the message, I would like to highlight a factor that goes unnoticed when one talks about this film, and that’s the animation and visual effects! The opening portion is unique as it shows letters, mathematical formulas, figures etc., overcrowding the screen to the point it becomes unbearable. It’s a great way of explaining the pressure placed on the students while learning and memorizing hundreds of things during their exams. Occasionally, it also shows the various teachers of lead protagonist Ishaan Awasthi (Darsheel Safary) reading out the marks of students, with Ishaan scoring just 2 or 3. This bit is nicely done but the best is yet to come. The opening credits are imaginative, comprising of animals, planes, birds etc., living a content life. Then there are occasional shots in the film of Darsheel dreaming of a flying train that goes around his head and the scene where Darsheel imagines himself as an astronaut flying in space consists of great animation. Full marks to Pankaj Khandpur and Sherry Bharda of Tata Elxsi VCL for their great work!
The initial scenes of the film are funny and light-hearted. But Ishaan’s family leaving away the poor kid at the boarding school hits you like a ton of bricks. The use of the song ‘Maa’ further enhances the impact. Often, our films don’t make a universal impact as they deal with love stories, marriage problems etc. A section of audiences have not experienced it and hence, they don’t empathize fully. But mother is a universal concept. We all have experienced the pain of being away from our mother for some time at least, in our childhood. As a result, the impact level was manifold. An indication of how much the audiences were moved was felt during the intermission point. It comes at a sweet juncture, with the entry of Ram Shankar Nikumbh (Aamir Khan) dressed as a clown. However, I clearly remember the audience didn’t laugh or guffaw as they were still reeling under the impact of the emotional scenes. Moreover, often, some moviegoers dash towards the exit as soon as ‘Interval’ comes written on the screen. In my show, viewers took their time to take a deep breath, digest the tearjerking moments that they just experienced and then they got up from their seats. What an impact!
The same kind of impact continued in the second half too. One of the most unforgettable sequences in the history of Indian cinema is when Ram goes to Ishaan’s house and is amazed to see that the kid, who he thought doesn’t like painting, is a master painter. Tears come out of his eyes as he realizes that the rat race has made Ishaan give up that one thing that he loved the most. And the sequence thereafter – Ram lecturing his parents about how they went wrong with Ishaan – is again a masterstroke. It was a clapworthy sequence but nobody was hooting as moviegoers were still too overwhelmed. Even in mass-dominated Gaiety-Galaxy theatre where audiences just need a small reason to whistle and clap, there was pin drop silence!
The credit for such kind of engaging narrative definitely goes to Aamir Khan who also directed the film. There was a controversy before the film wherein Amole Gupte alleged that he was to direct the film initially. But Aamir didn’t allow him to do so and he had to give up as a result. Maybe, the way Aamir handled the whole situation was wrong. But Aamir was the perfect person to helm this film as Amole arguably might have made the film too niche. Aamir ensured that the message came across but at the same time, there was enough entertainment and mainstream appeal. Watch Amole’s next directorial films – Stanley Ka Dabba, Hawaa Hawaai and Sniff – and one realizes that these films were nowhere close to Taare Zameen Par, though Stanley Ka Dabba was a good, touching fare. But again, Taare Zameen Par is in a league of its own.
Most importantly, Taare Zameen Par’s big contribution was the awareness it spread about learning disabilities. How many of knew about dyslexia before this film? Taare Zameen Par wonderfully explained it all in simple and impactful terms. In fact, Aamir used the similar way of explaining burning issues in his TV show ‘Satyamev Jayate’ as well. Thanks to Taare Zameen Par, viewers became much more sensitized and open about problems faced by children in school. Our society was never the same again after this film for the better that too! Things sadly have changed at a very slow pace but one thing is for sure – the seed sowed by Aamir, Amole and his team is bound to bring a revolution of sorts in the years to come!