Taare Zameen Par, Aamir Khan’s first movie as a director, is about a boy Ishaan Awasti (Darsheel Safary) and his struggles to fit in to the rigours of the school system. As hard as Ishaan tries, he cannot do well in school, much to the frustration of his parents, particularly his father. It doesn’t help that his older brother is the model child who does well in everything.
Ishaan is shipped off to a boarding school by his father and that’s where he meets a teacher Ram Nikumbh (Aamir Khan) who empathises with Ishaan. The rest of the movie’s about whether Ishaan’s interaction with Nikumbh changes his perception of himself and his parents’ perception of his abilities.
Aamir Khan is brilliant as the art teacher who has a completely different style from his other teachers. He delivers a superb performance, one with controlled emotions that never goes over the top but yet manages to move you. And to think that he stays away from the screen for half the movie and still wows you with his performance is proof of his superior acting skills.
Darsheel Safary as the lead character is okay but sometimes tends to over-act. (Admittedly, I’m setting the comparison bar high by comparing him to child actors like Dakota Fanning and Haley Joel Osment.) Tisca Chopra, as Ishaan’s mother, delivers an impressive performance as the woman caught between her husband’s need for the children to perform and her love for her sons, especially her younger son Ishaan.
But what to make of the movie? I liked it in parts but I wasn’t blown away by it. Yes, it’s a different kind of movie. Yes, the movie has an important message (Every child is special). Even so, it lacks something. The first half of the movie could be considerably tightened by removing some of the unnecesary lingering on Ishaan’s problems. The script writer, Amole Gupte, tried to show the range of problems faced by Ishaan and that slowed the movie down considerably in the first half. Maybe that time could’ve been better spent elsewhere. (I’m probably the only one who felt this way but what can I say?)
The movie has its moments though. There are plenty of funny moments and many more moments for you to exercise your lachrymal glands, if you’re into that sort of thing. Taare Zameen Par is an important movie in the Indian context, especially for parents but it misses the mark on being great.
A worthy first time debut from director Aamir Khan though.