Freeze Frame #134, #135: Taare Zameen Par

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.

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7 thoughts on “Freeze Frame #134, #135: Taare Zameen Par

  1. Amrita says:

    The problem with the second half imo is Aamir Khan. I’ve ranted about this all over the internet so I’ll keep it short (not because I’ve changed my mind but coz I’ve had time to come to terms with it and can thus spare you my righteous anger)- the first half was so gripping because it was Ishaan’s story all the way. But come the interval and Aamir steps in and it all turns into this story about a art teacher who saves this dyslexic kid. Which is nice but who cares? I want my Ishaan back.

    But that first sequence you mentioned, about Ishaan-in-the-world as I think about it – it’s absolutely fucking fabulous and worth the price of admission. It simultaneously says there’s a place for this mixed up kid who can’t do anything right, while saying there’s no safety for him the way there is for the kids at his school. He is just as lost inside the walls of his school as he is out there on the busy streets. In fact, he’s probably better off because at least nobody is pointing out his outsider status in a world that is full of outsiders.

    I love that.

  2. Outsider status in a world full of outsiders — I like that phrase. Says so much. What is more, it seems to refer in some way to the content of your own “Carpe Diem” post πŸ™‚

  3. I loved the Spaceman Spiff inspiration in the first half that kind of elevated his character to a new level.

    On another note, did you catch Pasanga? Catch it soon if you haven’t.

  4. I’m with Amrita in that the first half was all about Ishaan and the second half should have been too…there were so many great scenes in that film. I loved the insect letters crawling, the way the words on the blackboard swirled around. Really gave a feel for what dyslexia must be like in a way that hasn’t been done before.

  5. Same, same as Amrita and Memsaab. I was hooked into the film by Ishaan (with the exact worrying when he walked out on the road), but AK ruined the film for me.

  6. In terms of quality of movie-watching experience, I have to agree with you. AK on a big shiny white horse took away from what was a wonderful movie upto that point.

    I think the problem was, his intention was not to make a great movie about Ishaan but a message movie about dyslexia, and giving Ishaan the first half was the means to that end. Can’t fault his intention, even if the execution was a less than optimal. If he had figured out a better way to make the message movie and not take anything away from Ishaan, I’d have been gladder.

    ~ramsu

  7. PryMari Culler says:

    (Yellow is a primary-color derivative, plus I like to cull words with “Mari” in them.)

    Much as I love AK (the actor, string-puller, whatever), I hate that he’s gotten a moratorium on TZP rentals in these parts. Why else would I have next to no luck laying hands on a DVD for months? Taare Zameen Par, Socha Na Tha. Yup, that too. (My disbelief remains suspended!) Maybe its time to duly surrender my beacon-of-upstanding-virtue status, put an end to this torment, by seeking solace in torrent! πŸ™‚

    But seriously, they have Dostana and even Rab Ne out in DVD, speaking of which I did manage to lay hands on the latter, last Friday, and luvved it (just as I’d loved Delhi-6, yup, the devil’s certainly in the details (while God looms in the big picture!) — even the painting on the back of that yellow rickshaw in Haule Haule is a jodi of peacocks — Good luck with finding more than one peacock in any other Bollywood movie frame, till date…that is, as far as my frog-in-the-well guesswork goes).

    What I didn’t get though was the almost-unanimous rants (OK, I read all of TWO) against positioning it as a Rab-helmed movie. Like we’ve never seen it done before! (Didn’t Jodhaa Akbar and Jhoom Barabar Jhoom — both movies that have a total of three “Rab”s buried in their names, by the way, and where the jodis had to wait till the very end for their love to see the light of the day (quite literally, in case of the former), and where the screen was just as explosive with its cornucopia of colors, green especially — also have that proceedings-are-henceforth-overseen-by-a-higher-Power hint?, though not nearly half as explicitly as this one, which IMO would have worked well had the two SRK roles been reversed, but hey, Bollywood is not yet at a point where it can get away with having the girl fall, if only for a flip second, for the “seedha-saadha looking” good guy while still being married to the “stylish, Greek-God-looks” good guy, is it? The closest we ever came to that possibly happening was Dasvidaniya, but that’s another story altogether.)

    Clint Eastwood once said, “If I get to the point where I look like a basset hound, I’ll just play basset hounds.” Thankfully, Shahrukh here has no compunctions whatsoever, squeezing his 44-year-old frame into a 14-year-old’s wardrobe (and what a wardrobe! Raj confronts Taani in seminal scene, cue t-shirt: “Show Time” — No kidding!).

    And in the cutest closing credits ever (Japanese picture-postcard slideshow with polite-yet-pertinent commentary that’s classic Suri, as we’ve come to conclude by then), he lets us know that Orange is his second-favorite color (“Yellow ka tho mein batha hee chuka hoon” — oh yeah, Suri+Raj=Suraj-we-light-up-your-life, oh I love yellow, and my wife! OK, I just made that up.) — and frankly, I was quite disappointed we didn’t have every frame jiving with swinging-sixties lava lamps and papaya slices for dining-table props, jousting for screen space with all that yellow: flowers, t-shirts, dupattas, bed spreads, car…hell, even the tiffin box! πŸ˜€

    P.S: BTW, all that tropical-fruit talk this week is having me go green with envy that it’s my neighbor and not me that’s headed for Hawaii next week. Plus, papayas almost inevitably remind me of that Kamal dialogue in PKS where he begs Sneha — outside the courtroom where she and Abbas had just filed for divorce — to forgive his friend’s imprudence…”Hybrid pappali pazham maathiri valarthu vechurikken…” then follows it up with a proverb that’s his character’s trademark in the movie, for which the oh-so-impudent Simran demands an explanation to which Kamal delivers this also-trademark reply, “Pazhamozhiyellaam aaraayakoodathu, anubavikkanum,” which brings me back to that topic on puns, from yesterday, to which this same philosophy applies…OK, OK, end of story (and tangent)! πŸ˜€

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