Taare Zameen Par (2007)

I have to admit to two things first off: one, is that it took me a little while to get into this film. I started watching it several times before I was finally able to sit through it—as I said to Shweta, I think perhaps as a teenager I saw too many ABC After School Specials which dealt exceedingly earnestly with serious issues that kids face. They had titles like “Daddy Drinks Like A Fish” and “Is My Sister Dead Because Of Me?” (okay, I made those up, but the real ones were pretty close).

This brings me to admission number two, which is that anything exceedingly earnest makes me want to run away screaming. When people have an “important” point to make, usually any kind of nuance or subtlety is tossed away in favor of heavy ammo. I hate being hit over the head with a blunt object.

While I did find TZP somewhat guilty of this, several things conspired to engage me, and by the hour and twenty-six minute mark I was in tears. As nearly everyone has pointed out, Darsheel Safary (Ishaan) has possibly one of the most expressive faces in the history of the world.

This makes it impossible not to fall in love with him. How all the adults around him fail to read that face is somewhat incomprehensible to me. I mean, I chose not to become a mother or a school teacher because I figured my tolerance and understanding for kids was probably too low for me to be much good at either, but even I can see Ishaan’s pain and fear and frustration.

His journey through misunderstanding, isolation, rebellion and finally withdrawal is really sad, but of course makes his eventual emergence into his own so rewarding. Just a great performance!

His “bindaas” bravado made me laugh, too.

I was also captivated by how clearly and creatively symptoms of dyslexia are pictured with marvelous special effects—an excellent example of how sfx can be used to really enhance a story (as opposed to their more often gratuitous “hey look what we can do!” usage).

Beyond that, it is just beautifully photographed in general; I wanted to capture a screen shot every other minute!

Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy’s songs are wonderful, and used very effectively throughout as well. They add depth to characters and situations, and carry the story forward. “Bum Bum Bhole” is a favorite, mostly because it’s fun to watch Aamir shake his moneymaker. Yes, I am shallow.

I related to several things on a personal level as well (no I’m not dyslexic). I had a teacher who would throw chalk at us when we weren’t paying attention, too! It hurt! More than that is that drawing and painting was something I lost myself in when life was not as happy as I wanted it to be. The Art Mela made me want to dig out my colored pencils and dive back in. Maybe I will.

And I have an idea for Aamir’s next directorial venture: child safety.

India isn’t as responsible about that as it could be.

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34 Comments to “Taare Zameen Par (2007)”

  1. wow, a very thoughtful & beautiful review Greta! you know, i still haven’t watched TZP, even though I’ve heard only good things about it. It’s like saving something very special for a day when I know I’ll need something absolutely special to celebrate it with, or for a day when I might need something especially uplifting.

    But your screencaps were truly wonderful, it’s making me want to hurry up & watch it!!!

    p.s.: How is Gemma? Is she still hiding from that “old villain”? :-D

  2. I was surprised at how much it moved me, being as that I’m not a children person or an earnest message person :-) As everyone says, it’s good! Very beautifully shot.

    Gemma found places to hide that I never knew existed! But Allegro is gone now and Gemma khush hua.

  3. Hi Memsaab,

    This is the first time I am replying to your blog.

    I must say, you have done and are doing a wonderful job, keep up the excellent work !!. All your posts have been interesting and a treat to read :).

    Btw, I just started my own blog on R.D Burman. The link is:

    http://burmanrahuldev.blogspot.com/

    Regards

    PA

  4. Great post memsaab! LOL about your tears and avoiding “earnest” messages, which I also got enough of in the after school specials. I also don’t like teacher movies. I was crying all through that thing, though I tried to resist, I immediately gave in to the film. Damn Aamir’s manipulation. I cried as soon as Darsheel was playing with the water, water bottle, and the little fish. I think that was in the first 3 minutes and I didn’t stop. Here’s a link to my post on TZP and it includes a video of Shammi Kapoor at the musical release, and the story of my tears, LOL:

    http://bollywoodfoodclub.wordpress.com/2007/12/29/video-of-the-day-music-release-taare-zameen-par-by-shammi-kapoor-and-my-musings-on-the-movie/#comment-514

  5. Ha! At the beginning I was more worried about the fish and the dogs than I was about Ishaan. Good thing they got rid of them before too long or I never would have bonded with Ishaan ;-)

    Edited to add: I’m glad to meet you princeali! Will check out your blog, I love RDB too!

  6. OK, I had to take a trip down memory lane after your “After School Special” reference. Here are some titles I found:

    * My Dad Lives in a Downtown Hotel (1973)
    * My Mom’s Having a Baby (1977)
    * The Boy Who Drank Too Much (1980)
    * Stoned (1981)
    * Please Don’t Hit Me, Mom (1981)
    * I Think I’m Having a Baby (1981)
    * Amy and the Angel (1983)
    * Backwards: The Riddle Of Dyslexia (1984)
    * The Day My Kid Went Punk (1987)
    * What If I’m Gay? (1987)
    * Frog Girl: The Jennifer Graham Story (1989)
    * My Dad Can’t Be Crazy (Can He?) (1989)
    * The Girl with the Crazy Brother (1990)
    * Two Teens And A Baby (1991)
    * I Hate the Way I Look (1994)

    Awesome! I found them here:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/After_school_special

  7. Hi Memsaab: Glad you were able to finally see it, and then sit through it :)

    I hate being hit over the head with a blunt object.

    This specific issue was addressed in a decent amount of detail in the accompanying director’s commentary (which is very interesting). They’d debated editing out a few scenes for it, but kept them to cater to the sensitivities (and sensibilities) of rural India.

    …which dealt exceedingly earnestly with serious issues that kids face.

    This is why I’d be pleasantly surprised if TZP even made it to the final five at the Oscars. It has little novelty value here, for obvious (and good!) reasons.

    If the members of the Academy voted based on applicability to and difference-making in the foreign film’s country of origin, TZP would likely be atop the list. But it will probably matter less than, say, the theme and, as you note, the adults who failed to comprehend the Ishaan’s condition. Those from my family who’ve spent their entire lives in the U.S. have the major complaint that the other teachers were ‘comically harsh’. This is understandable, I think, because one must have attended school in India to appreciate how insensitive many teachers can be, unless they’ve had that chalk-throwing teacher right here ;)

    Cheers!

    PS: Did Gemma see it? Any noteworthy reactions to the bits with Sheru and Johnny?

  8. sitaji: LOL! See, I wasn’t too far off the mark, was I?

    theBollywoodFan: It was actually not nearly as bad with the blunt objects as I feared. There was some attempt to make the teachers and family (esp. the father) a little more three-dimensional, although time didn’t allow for too much in that area. I do somewhat suspend my dislike of blunt objects when watching Hindi films too, since one of the things I love so about them is the number of blunt objects tossed around :-)

    My younger school days were spent in a colonial British-influenced school system, so I could relate more than some maybe to the harsh discipline (I remember being sent home because the principal could not tell whether I had on “long short socks or short long socks!”) :-)

    Gemma was busy hiding from her arch-enemy and missed the dogs, though she would have enjoyed them.

  9. Thanks for linking me Memsaab!

    I think TZP has a chance to make it to the final 5, largely because of Darsheel. I have to say I blubbered everytime Tisca and Darsheel interacted- it was so damn touching :S

    I SO empathise about the chalk thrower- I had one who threw cahlk, and another who pinched! (ow- that brings bad memories :D

  10. LOL memsaab, your titles very close, they sounded real. I especially liked the real one: My Dad Lives in a Downtown Hotel (1973), since it sounds so fake. I made one up: “Please Don’t Touch Me There: Good Touch, Bad Touch.” I also wonder if there was ever one titled,”Stranger Danger!”?

  11. Aww that took me back some 10 months.. I would probably never watch this movie again; I too hate being hit like how you said.

    “Yes, I am shallow.” <– hahaha you’re so cute. I loved the way you admitted that. :D

  12. ps. I meant to add, I too love that song for similar reasons. :P LOL!

  13. shweta: I am hoping; there’s a lot of competition there though!

    sitaji: Someone could probably write a blog just on AASS (ha ha didn’t see THAT coming!) titles :-)

    Kanan: It was so CUTE, how could anyone not love it?

  14. Geez, you guys certainly had very interesting things to watch after school. I Think I’m Having a Baby!!!! lol All I ever got was Bollywood films and boring TV serials. :-(

    I went into this movie not expecting a lot since Bollywood as you say, tends towards heavy and blunt instruments not to mention loud dramatics. The movie was so far from my expectations that I loved it partly because of that. And then there was Darsheel – he was really, really convincing and that went a long way towards making the movie so touching (I was surreptitiously wiping tears throughout!).

    As one who went to several different schools in India (my childhood was very nomadic) and seen all kinds of teachers – some who threw black board dusters and others who caned students on their palms (it usually happened to boys and not girls, though) – I could totally relate to the teachers’ behavior depicted here and poor Darsheel’s feelings.

    Anyhow, though I loved it, I wont be in a big hurry to re-watch.

  15. I think that I Hate Being Hit Over the Head With a Blunt Object would have made a good After School Special.

  16. bollyviewer: I think I would count Bollywood films and Indian tv serials as interesting things to watch after school! And Hollywood is just as guilty of the blunt instrument thing. Re: teachers…since I went to school overseas in the 60s/early 70s I remember that kind of thing too (boys got caned on their backsides, girls were rapped on the knuckles—although you had to do something pretty bad to be rapped, and I never managed it. My brother did get caned once though, I remember). Darsheel is just amazing in this, and kudos to Aamir for pulling that kind of performance out of a kid.

    Todd: hee :-) Bludgeoned by Bollywood/Hollywood!

  17. Thank you for yet another great review Memsaab!

    I remember that one time the teacher hit our hands with a ruler (it was the one and only time though but we were all terrified!)

    Yes TZP brought memories. I too went to boarding school when I was just eleven and felt like I was reliving those times (the Mama song really got me going) All of us would cry secretly like that in the bathroom so that scene actually is a very real one.

    I also agree that dyslexia was explained clearly, I finally understood how it is like for a dyslexic.

    I think Aamir’s next directing project should be a romantic comedy. He turned out to be a talented director after all (he is a hottie but I’m not really sure about his acting)

  18. HOW did you score a DVD of this? Do you have a region-free player or something? I’m terribly jealous. It looks soooo good but I just have a cheapy $30 DVD player so I’ll have to wait for the Disney release.

  19. Eliza: Oh poor you :( At least I was never sent to boarding school, although I would have been if we had stayed in Africa. And yes, I really loved the visualization of dyslexia, really made it come alive as a problem. I also like the way he handed the box with Chinese written all over it to the father and then yelled at him when he couldn’t read it :-)

    I was sort of kidding about the child safety thing, although it does make me cringe sometimes to see entire families including small children on one motorbike, and never a seatbelt in sight for kids sitting right up against the windshields in other vehicles!

    ajnabi: I think most DVD players will play region-free disks? Mine certainly does and it was an inexpensive one (not $30 but maybe $90)…how do you watch other Hindi films on yours if it doesn’t play region-free DVDs? That’s what almost all Hindi film DVDs are…

  20. Oh, mine plays region-free discs, but I didn’t know the Disney release was on the market yet. I just looked up Aamir Khan’s blog entry on it (under “Two Bits of Good News and One Bad”) and Yay! I hadn’t realized so much time had passed since he posted about the U.S. delay. Netflix better deliver, that’s all I’ve got to say. ;-)

  21. I don’t think Disney has put it out yet, but if you know people in India (or Europe) you can get them to send you one. Your computer will probably play it, at least.

  22. I loved the first half of this movie, and Aamir did use a blunt instrument to get his message across during the second half. He forgot that the best way to get the message across is “show, not tell” and some of the scenes came across as heavy-handed. Still, it’s an enjoyable movie and I agree that Darsheel was amazing.

    Did he credit Bill Watterson for Calvin-and-Hobbes inspired Captain Ishaan’s flights of fancy? :)

  23. Amit: By the second half I guess my weeping obscured some of the heavy hitting for me :-)

  24. OMG! Amit that’s exactly what I screamed in theater.. like that’s stupendous man goes to Bollywood right there. It was so lifted from C&H, specially cuz it happens when Darsheel is in classes only, just like Calvin. Too bad there wasn’t a Susie Derkins around. :D

  25. I think I was so engrossed in Ishaan’s mathematical logic (which seemed logical to me!) that I failed to make that connection, although once Amit pointed it out I realized he was right. I miss Calvin and Hobbes…

  26. ““Bum Bum Bhole” is a favorite, mostly because it’s fun to watch Aamir shake his moneymaker. Yes, I am shallow.”

    No you are not shallow. You are just looking at his deeper values.

  27. TZP is one big heart. And truly, as happened in this year’s Filmfare, he is the face of the future of Bollywood. Bollywood cinema is changing and we, the viewers are loving it.

    Here is my take on TZP.

    http://oneknightstands.net/taare-zameen-par/

    Please let me know your thoughts on it.

    P.S. Loved your blog, and I was pleasantly surprised that you are such an avid Bollywood fan.

  28. Thanks Sujoy :) There is a lot to love!!!!

  29. Hey, I follow this blog since some time, but never commented, even being myself a blogger and the reference on Indian cinema in Brazil.

    Today, I don’t know why, I decided to search for your older entries and finally found this post. And so let’s see if I break my non-commenting tendency.

    TZP opened my blog, exactly two years ago. At that moment, I decided that Brazil should stop not knowing what is Indian Cinema, and that TZP could be a perfect banner for my decision. And so it is. By now, TZP was seen by more than 10 thousand Brazilians just in the world-of-mouth, as there’s absolutely ZERO advertissement for Indian movies in Brazil. Actually, NEVER in our history an Indian movie came to Brazil. It’s a completely absurd.

    Now, I receive around 350 visits per day, what is a kind of miracle. Now I’m also the official organizer of the Indian Film Festival of Sao Paulo, which is the most important event in Brazil concerning Indian cinema.

    And so I’m saying this all because TZP gave me the needed impulse to go ahead and make things change. I’m trying desperately bring TZP officialy to Brazil since it was released in India (at least in DVD, but we’d love if we could bring it for our cinemas), but Brazilian distributors are somehow completely stupid. But I’ll never give up till this movie comes officialy to us. It’ll be a revolution!

    Sorry for writing all of this. Maybe it was needed.

    Cheers,

    Ibira Machado

    • I will check your blog out, although I don’t speak Portuguese sadly :( (My dad does!)…good for you for doing what you can! I suppose you read Aamir’s blog and have tried to contact him through that? Wish you the very best and so glad you did leave a comment!

      • Wow, how does your dad speaks Portuguese?? BTW, thanks for replying me and hope you can appreciate my page, even if you don’t understand what’s written! lol

        Yah, I tried twice contacting Aamir through his blog, but had no response till now. Maybe I have to insist on it. I’ll write there again.

        :)

  30. i saw this movie when i was 8yrs old. very touching movie. loved it.
    and many many happy returns ofthe day to aamir khan.

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