Dec 30, 2007

Tears for change in Taare Zameen Par

This years tearjerker award definitely goes to Taare Zameen Par. And let's send this years best blockbuster movie award to the same movie (if these awards exist, that is). Taare Zameen Par (stars on the ground) is produced, directed and acted by Aamir Khan, the big star of Lagaan.
This is the first movie I saw in India that actually made the tears roll down my cheek. And looking around me in little shame, I saw I wasn't the only man wiping his face with a hanky. Okay, everything is done to make the tears come down. Music swells at the right moment, people cry constantly, the drama is huge, the kids are extremely cute. But all that is no problem since the theme is so well chosen and played out.
The movie is about Ishaan, a boy with extreme problems in school and therefore at home as well. He is constantly scolded for all his lack of concentration and intelligence. We find out slowly that he is suffering from dyslexia, and big daydreaming and fantasizing. He prefers making drawings and watching puddles of water reflecting the sun, like stars on the ground. Aamir Khan plays the sensitive and clini-clown like art teacher who is finally able to get through to the more and more depressed and almost suicidal boy. He uses alternative teaching methods liberating the kids creativity, which helps him to understand maths as well. The main inspiration for the teacher is to give children the freedom to fantasize and be creative, instead of devouring bulks of knowledge.
The movie is a complaint to the Indian school system or rather career-minded society, where the focus is on being the best and becoming an engineer or IT-specialist. It is a tribute to daydreaming, using fantasy and being moderate. But it is also strong demand for respecting and taking care of the children who can't cope with today's demands. Children with mental handicaps, or just a little less intelligence. They too are like 'stars on the ground'.
Okay, a little cheesy maybe, a little over the top (sometimes they make dyslexia look like having HIV...). And maybe not so original to a western mind. But very important in a world where having to compete gets more pressing every day. Maybe movies need to be a little over-the-top optimistic and emotional to have the power to change us hardheaded people. What's realism anyway? Here's a trailer:

Dec 6, 2007

Long live the Youth!

Not long ago, with a lot of noise, the return of The Queen of Bollywood was announced. The 40-year old mother, Madhuri Dixit, would perform the leading role in a new film Aaja Nachle (Come Dance). The Queen of Bollywood is also the Queen of Dance, so the title was promising.
The movie turned out to be some kind of a flop. Bad reviews in papers and on weblogs and few visitors. This is Madhuri at her most successful, in the movie Tezaab (1988).

A lot of researchers on Indian film have noticed a change in the movies of the last decade or so. Starting with movies like Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, the main protagonists of the movies were not mature and wise people anymore, but instead youngsters in college, mainly facing the 'problems' of romance. This could have something to do with a growing interest of big international brands trying to market their products through the movies. Good funding for the filmmakers, good marketing for Coca Cola and Reebok.
Is this the reason nobody wants to watch the dancing queen, who should actually be at home taking care of their children? See her dance and judge for yourself.