This movie came highly recommended, so Amit and I finally sat down and watched it last night.
It is the story of a boy who fares miserably in school and also is a bit of a misfit amongst his peers. He is happiest alone, observing things, painting or involved in creative activities, playing with pets. Unable to tolerate his poor academic performance, his parents send him off to boarding school, with the idea that the strict disciplining of that environment will sort out his “behavioural” problems. Naturally, it does nothing of the sort. Viewing it as punishment – as it was intended to be – the boy feels rejected by his family, retreats into himself, gives up painting, loses interest in everything else, and seems to be in depression. Enter Aamir Khan, who cleverly diagnoses dyslexia, and fast forward to a happy ending.
The only thing I can say is that it is inconceivable that – in this day and age, and in the social context of this boy’s family – the boy’s condition should have gone undiagnosed for so long. His condition is so severe that even I could diagnose it in minutes. How could his entire set of friends, family, teachers, all have failed to either diagnose it, or even to refer the boy to a doctor or psychologist?
Having said that, the movie, I must add, is excellently made. I do not recall when any other movie moved me so much, that for much of the time I felt close to tears. The boy’s victimisation, isolation, depression, are very well portrayed. You can’t help putting yourself in his shoes, even when you can also identify with, say, his mother, who is loving but frustrated. His father is portrayed in a very two-dimensional way which I felt was unrealistic – callous and almost cruel; but perhaps not as unrealistic as I would like to believe.
His elder brother’s tragedy is hinted at and then by-passed: a model son, who comes first in every subject (other than Hindi) and also excels at tennis, but who lacks the truant brother’s artistic skill and carefree (bindaas) attitude, like so many first-borns he is a victim of his parents’ ambitions.
There is a message, of course, and Aamir Khan does his bit of preaching to ensure that the message reaches the audience loud and clear. Thankfully, though it is a bit overdone, it does not become unpalatably moralistic and self-righteous.
On the whole, a movie very well made and delivered. Hats off to Aamir Khan, again.