I finally saw it! 24 hours after most other people. Stupid job, keeping me from watching movies in the middle of the week. Anyway, I’ve seen it now. There was a lot done really well, but there were also some things that were missing. The message was holding back a little somehow.
This movie kind of feels like two films awkwardly shoved together. One of them is very very good, a lovely love story between a mother and daughter. And the other is a fantasy ridiculous story of a girl discovered and made famous overnight. And that second movie is, well, not very good. Doesn’t quite hold together in how it happens, a little broad in how it is shown, and especially terrible in the ways it interacts with the very good simple story that makes up the other half of the film.
(Lovely love story)
My overriding impression while watching this movie is that it is itself hiding a bit. It is hiding as a simple happy family movie for everyone to go to together, but in reality it is giving a secret message to those in the audience who are living in the same situation as our characters. And that’s fine, that’s great, I am happy to sit through a slightly disjointed film if it allows this message to reach the people who need to hear it.
Only, it wasn’t a complete message. It sounds silly, but I wanted a Public Service Announcement moment! I wanted an explicit lesson as to what the options were for these characters, the non-fantasy options. What public resources are available, what are the laws, all of that. And we never got that, we were only offered the fantasy.
It’s an entertaining fantasy, certainly. Aamir throws himself into his character with no sense of pride, willing to turn himself into a total figure of fun. And there’s an award show, and fake TV announcers, and all kinds of ways that the film industry is making fun of itself. Culminating in the ridiculous end credits song. It’s not boring to watch, it adds some comedy to the film. But it feels like a distraction still, the whole time Aamir is onscreen, I am desperate to get back to our “real” characters.
Zaira Wasim is the center of the film, just as she was in the first half of Dangal. And, as in Dangal, that alone is a statement. This normal looking young girl is playing an age appropriate role as a normal young girl, with dreams and hopes and strengths and sorrows. Because girls are more than just daughters or sisters or future wives, they are their own people.
(Although none of her power anthems in this film come close to equalling her theme song from Dangal)
On the kid side of things, Tirth Sharma as Zaira’s friend is also wonderful. An awkward face, an open smile, a gangly teenage kind of way of walking, combined with a kind of casual confidence, it’s all delightful. And perfectly age appropriate. His “romance” is still more friendship than romance, as it should be for children. No grand passion, no uncontrollable desires, just smiles and blowing bubbles and sharing homework notes.
Meher Vij is incredible in this role, and I realized when I looked her up, I have actually seen her in two movies before! Bajrangi Bhaijaan, where she similarly stole the movie (it took a long time for me to forget her and settle down and enjoy the Salman plot). And Lucky: No Time for Love, where she took part in that immortal song “Lucky Lips”.
Beyond her acting, it is the character that is incredible. Really the entire household. It is a perfect and clear and real picture of this kind of household, to the point that it is uncomfortable to watch. The set design, the direction, the dialogue, it is all just perfectly right. Which is what makes the other half of the film, the filmi fantasy half, so unsatisfying.
Unsatisfying in several ways. Unsatisfying purely in terms of feeling “filling” for the audience, the emotions have less depth, the characters less soul, everything just isn’t as strongly flavored as the other section. But also unsatisfying as the resolution to the story, the solution to all their problems. It doesn’t feel like a solution that the characters have earned, like something that they have achieved on their own. There is an attempt in that direction, but it doesn’t quite work out fully, it is still too much of a fantasy to feel like a solution that can be relied upon, that will last.
And so, ultimately, the entire film feels a little empty to me. This is a movie that raises “awareness” about an issue, that lets us all pat ourselves on our shoulders for having sympathy and being on the “right” side of things and so on and so forth. But what about that mother and daughter that are getting this secret message? What are their next steps? What have they learned? What options have opened up for them thanks to seeing this film? Nothing.