Taare Zameen Pe – Interpretation (Not a review)

(Read it only after you have watched the flick)

It so happened that TZP was my first movie on a cinema hall alone. Although I tried to avoid that from happening, circumstances were against me. With the result that I was alone to watch a much-awaited movie with an already perturbed frame of mind. For the record, I am a huge fan of Aamir; he is my most favorite Indian personality from the glamour world. Before you read my criticisms, I would also like to tell you, I didn’t write this post two days back just after watching the movie because I wanted the movie hangover to die out – so that I could write sensibly!

TZP reminded me of RDB. Only it is filled with too many emotions and hence it is quite “heavy”. Apart from that there are many similarities with RDB. Both have a message. TZP is dealing with a more sensitive issue, so its message doesn’t come out starkly. But they managed to say one thing – don’t overburden/pressurize kids which terminates the individuality of every child. Both the movies are provoking. They leave an impact on the viewer; as in you get personally involved in the movie. TZP is so well made, that it even succeeded in reminding me of my childhood days. And I cried like a baby in the movie. It would be no wonder if TZP does good business and get good reviews, just like RDB.

What was fundamentally wrong in TZP? It succumbed to the pressure of providing a concrete ending. Pressure of giving an answer. Pressure of being accepted by the audience who would not like to go home with a sensitive issue such as schooling (which is the center point in the lives of children) being left unanswered, unjustified. Hence, the child becomes a hero – the best painter in the school – the public is happy and the movie ends. Unfortunately, the hidden message which passed on was the very message the movie is against of, the very message the movie is based on. Every child is special, hence no child should be forced to fulfill ‘unjustified’(?) expectations of parents, no child should be forced into the rat race of the competitive world and expected to ‘win’, and every child should be allowed that space which s/he needs to express her/his individuality. When Ishaan won the painting competition, he not only fulfilled his teacher’s ‘expectations’ by ‘winning’ a ‘competition’ he also strengthen the fact and sent the message: in the unavoidable rat race winning is essential!

Another aspect of the movie was: story of failure. Again, this issue is so complex that the failed child was shown to have a disability called Dyslexia in reading/writing; who nevertheless, had an above average intelligence. What about kids with average or below average intelligence? But of course, their story won’t be interesting enough to be shown in a movie!

The movie succeeded in showing two main issues: first, which was captured beautifully in the song Jame Raho, the act of bringing up a child who is innately unorganized in a highly regulated world we all live in. Second, to some extent, movie brought out the mystery behind failure: a teacher fails before a student does/can. I would take up both these issues separately and then together.

A child is raised by an adult who by definition would already be following a certain lifestyle, faces lot of trouble in getting accustomed to that lifestyle. This is the debate which is carried out in terms of Discipline Vs Freedom across the globe. Some rules and regulations are critical for all human beings to follow so as to sustain the community life. The questions here are: how is the discipline carried out? Does it suppress the freedom of an individual? Or can one create situations for developing self-discipline? What is self-discipline? In my understanding, a discipline which is authoritatively maintained not only kills the freedom of an individual, it dampens the chances of evolution of self-discipline. Hence, the problem is not of getting up early in the morning and following a routine, the problem is whose will is being followed when a routine is being followed. Is it yours or the world you live in?

Exactly one year back I wrote about failure after reading John Holt’s How Children Fail. Holt argues that children fail primarily because they are afraid, bored and confused. This combined with misguided teaching strategies and a school environment that is disconnected from reality and “real learning”, results in a school system that kills children’s innate desire to learn. This was evident in the movie. Though they hid behind Dyslexia, the reality is not so rosy. Even children with average level of intelligence fail, and suffer the same agonies which Ishaan faced. Yet, few adults among us ever talk about it or even acknowledge this as an issue.

I have talked to so many people in past few months while trying to explain them about my professional life and in return have been fortunate enough to hear what they think is the major problem with Indian education system. It is – children who can’t do math/science have no other options! Although, not untrue, this is still a very simplistic way of putting things. I would say the main problem with Indian education system is that it doesn’t give any skills to the young generation which are required to become independently thinking, rationalizing adults with basic values of equality, justice and freedom. Of course, when the education system itself doesn’t follow any of the above mentioned values, its no wonder the products of it would not possess any! A visit to any classroom in any of 99.9% schools of the country would prove my point.

It was not just to criticize or list the problems in education system that I started writing this post. Personally for me, movie succeeded in adding an aspect to my introspection. I live with a 4 year old child in my house. I see him being scolded a lot of times for speaking ill-words, for doing wrong deeds. This wrong/right is defined by an individual shaped by his perception of the world. What I don’t understand now is why do we try to enforce our definition of right/wrong on others, and unabashedly on our younger generation? Is it something we do because of our socialization process, that is the way we have been brought up, or is it innate psychologically? If it is latter I am both at peace (less work) and disturbed (can’t be done anything about). This enforcing habit is also directly related to our incapability of understanding other person. A child fails because he is not being understood by the adults or the system. In fact, nobody even cares to understand him/her. This is extreme in case of child because we don’t treat him as a thinking person who can have his own thoughts/understandings/beliefs. But, this is true even in one-to-one relationships among adults, as it was clear in Hum-Tum’s famous number – ladki kyon, na jaane kyon, ladkon si nahi hoti! I would attain my nirvana if I could stop enforcing my kind of lifestyle (which means – no pub, no club, no bowling, no expensive movies, no expensive plays…..) on people around me! :D



14 thoughts on “Taare Zameen Pe – Interpretation (Not a review)

  1. Nice Obervationas and Good REVIEW! Though the review is more of the message that movie conveyed than the movie, so title remains valid :D !! But, one of your most beautiful “observing” blogs!!


  2. kahne wale to kahte hein hum karmon mein swadheen swada, karne walon ki parwashta hai gyat kise jitni humko….

    raising a child is indeed a balancing act…. learning curve for parents is indeed steep, although children are very forgiving :)

    expectations from the kids are based on socio-economic environment… with more well do to parents, I would expect more avenues for kids in future (since parents can support many more years of higher education) and less pressure for excelling in science based course

    So do you recommend the movie?


  3. Disagree with your interpretation to an extent. In fact, it seems to flow out (biased) from more of your reading than actuality. Would love to discuss face-to-face however!!


  4. @bro
    yeah, you should watch the movie.

    One should never leave his/her comment unjustified. What is actuality? And what exactly do you disagree with? And what are your reasons for disagreement. I would wait for your reply.


  5. Is replying here considered a “rule” or an “etiquette”? The sentence “Would love to discuss face-to-face however!!” means that I do not find it worthwhile to write stuff here and go into more of a write-and-wait-for-reply discussion, with a possibility of loose ends to it. So, you may need to wait till we meet or I call you:)


  6. Before you raise your eyebrows, let me tell you that I also do not mean to say that a discussion here is a futile activity, just that I am being lazy:)


  7. @sudoo

    thanks for dropping by again. Whatever channel it may be, clarifying your comment/opinions with proper justification is what I would call being rational and reasonable – higher personality premises than “following rules or etiquette”.
    I would also like to point out that your two comments, which might have been posted in a hurry, are contradictory. Not finding something “worthwhile” is quite close to finding it “futile” as well. Regarding the same issue, the discussion on phone or face to face has more loose ends than this one. I have had some very fruitful discussions on blogs, of course – coz I love to write/type and am usually not so lazy about it. I would urge you to give it a try yourself! Who knows, you may end up developing another hobby!


  8. I agree with your advise on blogging; writing to be precise. I have recently started writing though nothing has been made public as of yet. I shall do the same asap. I can see the utility of discussions. I shall also get back to you “here” with my observations on your interpretations of TZP; definitely before this Monday. Thanks.


  9. To start with I agree with your take on the film on the following aspects: (a) parents’ bringing up their children, (b) teacher-student issues and (c) partly on the “story of failure”.

    Let me try to keep the disagreements as terse as possible.

    I believe a lot of reviews have been written on the “fatal flaw” of the film i.e. glorifying victory at the end. While that might have earned a few brownie points (read revenues) for the movie, I doubt if winning is what the film-maker intends to emphasize or if that is something which should be interpreted as. The emphasis was more on telling all that I have already agreed with (above) AND :

    (a) people can be special in myriad ways: This does not necessarily mean that they need to be a winner in “the special” area. But one if left independent may tend to do a thing better than other. The education system’s parameters to judge students have limitations and hence potentially good people are lost in the crowd.

    (b) TZP is a story of a “special child” who is good at painting. It is NOT a story of a “below average intelligence” person. That is why the child is compared to the likes of Einstein, Picasso etc. The idea is to tell you the story of a child who is good at painting but poor at lot many other things. And the world is blind to the hidden talent and people use the same lens to see this “special” child and then complain that the picture looks blurred . The cause of the blindness is ofcourse the issues highlighted (above). You may agree or disagree if that should be shown as a story itself. However, it should be left to the imagination of the writer and the discretion of the director. Finally, I would like to say that it was not “winning” which was emphasized. The point could have been made even if he had performed good enough and not actually won the competition..

    I agree that “a” director who choses the story of an “average” or “below average” child and makes a point has a greater likelihood of failing to make the movie a commercial success. But that too depends on the treatment of the subject and other film-making skills.

    I also do not intend to make any comment on the issues with education system discussed for that is something I might have limited understanding of.

    A final disclaimer: I am not the best of writers. It is possible that I might not have been able to express my point completely or with utmost clarity through this writing.


  10. @sudoo

    Thanks for the long comment, and before I began replying on that, let me tell you that you give yourself less credit than you deserve on writing skills! At least I felt I could understand your points clearly.

    Actually, my criticism was generic in the sense that it would apply to any commercial movie which is made to reach mass public and not get lost by labels like “art movie” or “documentary (like Hyderabad Blues!)”. From that aspect movie gets full points. But of course, when one criticizes even a well-made piece, it is only because one expects lot more to be shown – not necessarily from that particular film only but from any media channel. And yes, my current background has a big role to play, which could have brought in that pinch of biasness. There are many schools in the country which are called “progressive” and which places say painting and math at the same level (of respect, importance). But as soon as the so-called childhood ends and the need to think about “career” and “future” starts, the difference between math and painting is starkly visible! Haven’t we all experienced this in our lives at some level? At least I know NONE of my friends ever pursued any of their “hobbies” which they were “very good – even exceptional” at as soon as 8th standard was passed! When I criticize the movie, I do it because it shows a very simplified version of a colossal problem. That might be a shortcoming of mass media itself. However, an exceptionally good movie would succeed in at least raising the related deeper issues and not just leave it as a story of a special child. Of course, as you say it is totally up to writer’s discretion and the debate shouldn’t be on the story line. They definitely did a great job in successfully showing what the script demanded! :) Nevertheless, can’t deny that I would have personally liked/respected it more if they would have avoided the winning part and still able to make their point.
    I find the songs of the movie to capture the essence better: “Dil khush jahan teri toh manzil hai wahin”


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