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Hichki

Mar 23, 2018

Tourette’s Syndrome, as with all smart films tackling disability, is just a motif here, running across the film’s gorgeous pillars and idle playgrounds, curling gently about the scenes like creepers and scuttling into the background conveniently and often. I warn you, this movie is sugar. Here, melodrama has gently coaxed logic out of school. Scenes never become the sum of their parts. And yet, you hang on tight to the film. Mainly, the most realistic aspect of the movie, the lead, works. Rani Mukerji’s ‘Naina Mathur’ doesn’t try to be special. After 18 rejections, she gets an offer to teach. It is the same school where she had studied and been inspired by a teacher who had transformed her life by accepting her condition. But there’s a catch. 9F is not a regular batch. Previously, the students have been in a municipality school which got absorbed into St. Notkar’s playground. Because of Right to Education, they get to study at St. Notkar’s. They are slum kids who have not just been dealt rough blows by life, they have also been made to feel they do not belong in the school by teachers and students alike. Naina Mathur’s biggest challenge is if she could gain their trust. As an actor, Mukerji’s greatest challenge is if she could enable me to overlook the persistent tics and pay attention beyond. And yes she does. The movie tells an underdog story. The narrative unfolds quite predictably and the drama tropes are familiar. Ultimately, you reflect on education as a concept. You remember the teachers who shaped your thoughts. I grew up in a time where teachers could bully or smack you. And before corporal punishment was banned, they used to rap with canes. Frankly, I never had a teacher like Naina Mathur but I do wish I had one! This is also a film for anyone who may have struggled to belong or had identity issues ever in life. The movie spends its runtime in the school and the slums. And, Yashraj has its signature on the production design. The school, with its old British architecture, has appeal and character, like a wrinkled wise man who quietly observes everything. But when it comes to slums, these are the ones you saw in Lafangay Parinday which had Yashraj version of Mumbai slums. I just hated the shallowness of art direction. More so because, I have seen the slums myself and have happened to pass by and stop by several times. My question is: Why do we need this dolled up version or does the art director not know any better? The cast is tailored. Everyone, however superficial, has been given a backstory. This gives credence to the proceedings. Rani Mukerji is full of conviction. I think motherhood gives a woman an ineffable maturity and a knowing smile. Rani, who has always been a delight to watch, delivers an impeccable emotional punch with her performance. I can now stick my neck out and say Rani is not just India’s, but one of the world’s finest actors. If this is how your 2nd innings will be, we are fortunate as film lovers – Just keep them coming Rani! Harsh Mayar, if you remember the ‘I am Kalam’ wonder, has got a significant part and enacts it wonderfully. The actors playing schoolchildren and Neeraj Kabi as the teacher who challenges Naina have hit the right notes throughout. Cinematography by Avinash Arun who is also a brilliant director is very reminiscent of ‘Killa’ and ‘Drishyam’, both of which have a distinct soft palette which he prefers. He makes use of natural light impressively, almost like European cinematographers. The music is soft and fresh, wispy on the ears, a welcome breeze at various points of the film. But the background score could be a little subtler. I do congratulate the crew of Hichki for making a film with so much heart and it does seem like a lot of good and great is on the horizon. But I can’t say the same for direction because all that falters in here is for the lack of that. Siddharth has a Malhotra surname and I am sorry to offend but I wonder how well he knows Indian reality. I am going with 3 out of 5 for Hichki. Have no hiccups making it to theatres for this one!

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