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Film Review: Taara Zameen Par (Like Stars on Earth)
Taara Zameen Par is a 2007 Indian drama film directed and produced by director, producer, and actor Aamir Khan. The film has reissued its title as “Like Stars on Earth” for Disney International viewing. The film plots the life story of an eight-year-old child named Ishaan Awasthi who has very vivid imagination. Although he excels in art, his academic performance was vice versa. He always gets red marks in his test papers. This leads his parents to send him off to a boarding school, the Tulips School, thinking Ishaan would get his act together and stop being a naughty kid. However, Ishaan’s performance in Tulips School mirrors his performance in his previous school.
Meanwhile, a new Art teacher, Ram Shankar Nikumbh enters the scene and encounters Ishaan’s struggle in his early life. He has been bothered when Ishaan did not even paint a point in his canvas when ordered to paint whatever they want. He tries to figure out the problem of Ishaan by asking Ishaan’s physically-disabled-but-bright friend, Rajan, and his fellow teachers who think Ishaan is one of those mentally retarded whose life has nowhere to go, by checking out Ishaan’s past test papers and his red marks, and by visiting Ishaan’s parents’ home. During his visit, he discovers how Ishaan loves to paint and figures with Ishaan’s family Ishaan’s disability. He points it as dyslexia – a reading difficulty in phonological awareness, phonological decoding, processing speed, orthographic coding, auditory short-term memory, language skills/verbal comprehension, and/or rapid naming.
Ishaan’s father, on the other hand, denies the fact and said Nikumbh was just making excuses for Ishaan the same way Ishaan excuses himself to study. Nikumbh, then, grabs a box that had writings in Chinese and asks Ishaan’s father to read the writings. Ishaan’s father says he can’t read what was written because he does not recognize the letters. Nikumbh here ridicules Ishaan’s father for him to understand and accept that Ishaan, indeed, is dyslexic.
The next day, Nikumbh tries to reach out to Ishaan by telling out a story that Ishaan nervously thought was his story. Apparent in the film, Nikumbh states the story was of Albert Einstein’s. Afterward, Nikumbh goes on citing different famous names who were dyslexic or learning-disabled but still made to do something different. Before sending the children out, Nikumbh calls out Ishaan’s attention to tell him there was another name he didn’t mention – Ram Shankar Nikumbh – his name. This figures that Nikumbh has been also dyslexic and has experienced what Ishaan was currently experiencing.
Nikumbh, who is eager to tell everyone, most especially Ishaan’s family that Ishaan is not to be treated “different” and be sent to a special school for mentally challenged kids, walks on to talking the principal of Tulips School. He persuades the principal to give Ishaan the chance to explore himself and gain back his imagination that he draws out in painting, and let him do the job for improving Ishaan’s problems in reading and writing (literacy) and in other academic subjects. After some arguments, the principal agrees with Nikumbh after he quoted Oscar Wilde’s cliché – A cynic is a man who knows the price of everything, and the value of nothing.
Nikumbh goes on to enhancing Ishaan’s ability in painting further as well as his literacy skills. After some days, Ishaan’s father drops off to visit Nikumbh and tell her that his wife read about dyslexia. Again, Nikumbh tells his implication through his example story of the Solomon Islands – On the Solomon islands, when the tribes need to clear the jungle to make way for fields, they don’t cut down the trees, they simply gather and collect around it, and hurl abuses at the tree, they curse it. Slowly but surely, after some days, the trees begin to wither. It dies on its own. He implies to Ishaan’s father that what his son needs is care. Ishaan’s father, almost teary-eyed, runs away from Nikumbh’s office, and there upon his leaving, he discovers how Ishaan greatly improved. He sees from afar Ishaan reading orally an announcement posted on the school’s bulletin board. Ishaan’s father runs away with tears pooling in his eyes, filled with shame.
At the last minutes of the film has given the penultimate event – the Painting Competition set up by Nikumbh. The students, and even the teachers, have been welcomed to join the competition. Nikumbh’s guru in painting, Lalita Lajmi, arrives in the scene to be a guest judge. Nikumbh searches for Ishaan anywhere but could not find him. Ishaan’s friend, Rajan, tells Nikumbh he left the dorm even before the dawn breaks. After a few moments of waiting, Ishaan appears and Nikumbh quickly approaches him with a canvas to paint on. Ishaan moves to a much private place and begins to paint.
After finishing his painting, which is an illustration of a kid staring at himself in a pond (Ishaan painted himself), he walks to Nikumbh to show off his painting. Ishaan walks to see Nikumbh’s painting and cries himself after seeing it is him in so much glee, who Nikumbh painted on his canvas.
Before the film ends, it gives a brief view of Ishaan’s parents checking out on IShaan’s improvement in Tulips School. They find out Ishaan did a huge improvement in his literacy skills. Ishaan’s father, who is still on the verge of denying his lack care to Ishaan as his father, thanks Nikumbh after all for all that he has done for his son. The film ends with Ishaan running back to Nikumbh before leaving the Tulips School.
Strengths of the Film
The strengths of the film run down from the script itself to its direction and production up to the performances of the actors in the movie. The film is absolutely a two-thumb up. To begin with, the script was greatly written. Proper words were used to embellish the context of the film. The film used different famous names to emphasize the point of the movie – Albert Einstein, Thomas Alva Edison, Leonardo da Vinci, and Oscar Wilde. It also used adages and stories that clicked to beautify better the purpose of the film – Nikumbh quoted to the principal of Tulips School Wilde’s thought regarding cynicism. The other, he told Ishaan’s father about the story of Solomon Islands.
The music production was also done greatly. The musicality of the film gave a vivid presentation to accompany the betterment of the movie. The lyrics of the songs were fitting to the scenes of the film, particularly, the song wherein the children with special needs were featured and are likened to “stars on earth”.
Aamir Khan’s direction and the production of the film deserved a five-star rating. He greatly thought of the scenes to be produced that would surely emphasize the purpose of the film and would give impact to its viewers. Most scenes featured in the movie, if not funny to give laughter, were leaving all eyes of almost the viewers pooled with tears.
Lastly, the film’s huge success owed itself to its actors. The minor characters in the story, particularly, Ishaan’s parents performed well. Ishaan’s father, Mr. Awasthi, did a great job in portraying the role of a father who is insolent and lacks care for Ishaan. Ishaan’s mother, Mrs. Awasthi, also did a great job in acting out the role of a mother who is very caring of Ishaan despite his naughtiness as an eight-year-old boy. Darsheel, on the other hand, who was playing the role of Ishaan Awasthi, gave a splendid performance. Factually, Darsheel is normal kid who is very much unlike Ishaan, but in the movie, he seemed and appeared to be a kid who is naughty and playful and has special needs. The way Darsheel acted, from his eyes that spoke of a kid who has been neglected or uncared to his actions that are only evident to a kid who is suffering from mental disability, deserved a loud applause.
Aamir Khan, who was also the director and producer of the film, also didn’t fail to give the movie a huge victory. Aamir Khan was, without a doubt, versatile as an actor looking back on the numerous he made. Like Darsheel, Aamir Khan also acted how a teacher, who was previously dyslexic, should respond to the needs of a child who has special needs. He delivered his lines great enough to emphasize his point as Ishaan’s (played by Darsheel) teacher. Same with Darsheel, his eyes gave the movie something to pool the viewer’s eyes.
Overall, the movie was excellent, from the production, and of course, up to the performances of the actors.
Weaknesses of the Film
If there were weaknesses in the film, not even a lot would say the flaw(s) matter or affect the production of the film. On the other hand, for movie critics there was at least one flaw that the movie lacked. That is the highlighting of the other characters in the film. Given that the main characters were Ishaan and Nikumbh, it should have not focused the development of the film in them.
The movie was absolutely a two thumbs up. It achieved its purpose as indicated in its title that “Every Child is Special”. It was not just a movie for children. Rather, a movie intended for everyone, most especially to teachers who are apparently obliged to deal with students with special needs. The movie also, allegorically could have pinched and itched people’s hearts who were judging children with special needs and treating them as “indifferent”. The movie gave the children who like Ishaan, are mentally challenged, the hope that they would be treated like normal kids and be given proper and adequate care.
The film should have also highlighted the other characters who were part in developing the upshots of the events in the film.
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