I’ll be putting up a separate SPOILERS review, but there really isn’t much to worry about spoiling. We’ve all seen this kind of movie before, we know what it’s going to be like and what will happen. So, you can read this review, and then see the movie, and then read the SPOILERS review, or you can just read them both and then decide if you want to watch it.
This is a very safe movie. In all ways. The kind of plot that has been done over and over before, backed up by solid (but not super experimental) songs, a cast of experienced character actors, one excellent star, and young people used carefully so as to not have too much responsibility put on them. And cheap! Reports say the full cost, including promotions, was something around 30 crore. And it looks it. Sort of. There’s very few sets used, no expensive actors, and it’s not even that long.
But it doesn’t feel “cheap”, it feels small. They didn’t start out planning for a big film and then cut corners, they started out planning for this film and they didn’t bother wasting money on anything they didn’t need for it. It’s a very well-made film in that way, no giving in to the impulse to promote it bigger than they needed to or make it bigger than they needed to in any way.
The center of it all is Rani. It’s a great role for her because it doesn’t feel like it is trying to make her a star. It’s an interesting role, with some difficult acting challenges, and Rani is one of the few actresses with the ability and experience to have pulled it off. Vidya could have done it too, Anushka Shetty (yes Shetty, not Sharma), but there really aren’t that many working actresses who are naturally charming and warm in a way that makes you want to keep watching them, and also have the experience to be able to pull off the complications of the role.
Rani’s character has Tourettes. Which is quite the acting challenge! There are several scenes where she has an attack in the middle of sobbing or laughing or some other natural function. The pure physical challenge of that, fake-sobbing and then fake spasming without breaking the sob, is something I don’t think an actress just starting out could handle.
On top of the physical challenge, there’s also the need to create a character we care about. We have to believe in Rani’s desire to be a teacher against all odds, her care for her student, her struggle to succeed, and her own personal drama. The trick of it is, we need to have faith in her intelligence and ability, while at the same time being sincerely concerned that she will not succeed, to have tension about the happy ending.
Rani does a great job with her part, I believe she is truly capable and not showing false confidence, but I also believe she is sincerely struggling to figure out her next steps. The flaw is in the plot supporting her, which needs to keep throwing in ridiculous villainy and foolishness in order for Rani to fail despite her abilities.
The other flaw is that the plot is not actually revolutionary. The message is “conform conform conform”. For all the talk of “hichkis” and thinking outside the box and so on, it never really takes that extra step to question the system itself rather than finding a new way to succeed within the system. This is Rani’s movie, but should it be Rani’s movie? Should the focus be on an upper-middleclass uppercaste Hindu woman or should it be on the children who she is helping? This film is a clear imitation of American “magic teacher” films and, like them, it also falls victim to the “magic white [in this case upperclass Hindu] woman saves Black [in this case, slum dwelling] children”. If we are talking about “hichkis”, that is the hiccup in this film, the need to ultimately reinforce the system which is destroying these children by making them succeed within it instead of outside it. It’s the ultimate “safe” angle to this film, safe budget and safe cast and safe plot, and also safe message.