96. Taare Zameen Par (2007): Not another brick in the wall

It seems like more than a coincidence that I read this shattering news about 2-year-old Mohamad Daniel (and he’s not the only one) just before watching this Aamir Khan directorial effort — an earlier effort in the same socially conscious vein as 3 Idiots. Watching the first scene of the movie shot though the eyes of a curious young boy, it felt unbearable to see such thirst for life on screen, when we live in a world where parents can put a death wish in their child.

TaareZameenParBut thankfully, Taare Zameen Par is not that kind of movie. There are real parents who are true monsters, but the parents in this film are just misguided. Yes, Aamir Khan’s art teacher is too neat in his amazingness for knowing exactly what to say (“Thank you for telling me you think you care”) and how to save the day, but I must say he has never appeared more handsome and heroic and human to me than in this movie, when he simply empathises (to me, this is his Swades). (Fans of his tendency towards clownish antics in a dance will not be disappointed by his introduction, though.)

But no, Aamir Khan is not the brightest star of this movie. That would be young Darsheel Safary (who’s 10 years older now!), who plays little Ishaan Nandkishore Awasthi, a dyslexic child fighting against the world. I was asked recently by a dear friend about the worth of consuming media (i.e. film, TV) these days; is the outlay worth the returns? There’s just too much, and so much of it is … not worthy. How can a limited lifespan deal with unlimited Internet access?

I think Taare Zameen Par gave me the answer. There are works of mindless escapism, which is just running off to worlds that do not (and will never) converge with your own, draining your finite hours and focus away. Then there are works like this, that create worlds inside your heart, so that your imagination and compassion and limitations for how you can contribute to the lives of others have to gorgeously expand to take them in.

When you look into Ishaan’s eyes through the camera, when you see him run and roar and rage, snuggle up to his father, yearn for his mother, wilt inside, and thrive again — you understand. And his thought world is absorbed into yours, and your heart wraps around his and every child who has had to fight to be seen, heard, and understood. Safary is an epic unto himself in bringing Ishaan to life for us, through every season — it’s actually sad when he gets less screen-time after Aamir Khan jumps into the fray.

Aamir Khan also wants to draw our hearts to special needs children — the subtitle to the movie is “every child is special”. This may seem like a sideshow to the message of the movie — we are to care for each child where they’re at, and be wary of forcing our failed dreams upon them. But I think he’s trying to show something that a friend in a special needs school once observed: that families receive such blessing when they are forced to expect absolutely nothing from their children, and can only love and care for them as they are.

This is an absolute must-watch.

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