I confess to not being overly enthusiastic about watching Taare Zameen Par when it came out. I have no idea why. When I finally did see it a few months ago, I kept wondering why I had waited so long. It’s a wonderful movie about a dyslexic kid having trouble in school until a sympathetic art teacher comes along and helps him out.
I agree wholeheartedly with the assessment that the second half is painted in very broad strokes and has none of the subtlety and power of the first half. Still, despite the fact that I know I’m being manipulated, I don’t feel like dissing it. I guess I like being a puppet every once in a while.
Two sequences stand out for me. One is an extended sequence in the first half where Ishaan bunks school and walks around the city for a while before coming home. When this scene started, all sorts of alarm bells were ringing in my head. No kid his age should be out alone on the roads like this!
But after the first 30 seconds of fretting about the dangers of the situation, I settled down to see what he would do. And I was drawn in. There doesn’t seem to be any conscious design to what Ishaan stops to observe and what he passes by without a second glance. It would’ve been easy to make him observe only those things that emphasize his artistic bent of mind. But the movie doesn’t try to shoehorn any pattern into the situation. It wisely recognizes that, to a hyperactive kid (artistic inclinations or not), anything could be interesting.
One of the pleasures of going to the movies is to find ourselves in the company of fully realized characters. There are so many movie characters who race so breathlessly through the plot that they hardly stop by to say hello. When a movie takes five minutes (heck, a whole first half, come to think of it) to do that, it’s gratifying. It is this attention to detail that wins the movie enough brownie points to make up for the string-pulling in the second half.
The other scene that worked for me is this little reaction shot right towards the end, when the Principal of the boarding school is about to announce the winner of the school-wide painting contest. We know already, having seen so many movies, that Ishaan would win. When the Principal announces that the judge has chosen a student’s work over his teacher’s, we know exactly what he is talking about even before any names are mentioned.
But a reaction shot of the art teacher beginning to applaud before holding back and waiting for the actual announcement? Now that is interesting, isn’t it?
It is not surprising that the art teacher would’ve guessed who the principal was talking about. But how often do the makers figure on giving this particular reaction shot? Think about all those movies where a competitor overcomes great odds to win a contest with a supportive coach by his/her/their side. How often does this reaction get shown, no matter how obvious? It is only after you see the shot that you realize that yes, this is exactly how he would’ve reacted.