Taare Zameen Par - review by Raja Sen and Rangan Baradwaj ripped apart by Sanjukta Basu

Taare Zameen Par | My response to Raja Sen’s Review

I find film critics arrogant and snobbish. They tend to write bad things about all movies and even if it’s a great movie they’ll write something bad just for the heck of it, just to show that they are NOT biased.

Raja Sen’s review on Rediff. I have a lot of problems with the review. He writes…

It is hard to know, as a director, when there can be too much of a good thing. Khan indulges himself with his nice little visual flourishes significantly in the first half, to the point of repetition. There is the clever device of the child — being shunted off to boarding school against his desperate pleas — making a flipbook which shows a family with one kid moving away, as the pages turn. It’s a strong, simple touch, yet Khan chooses to show it to us again and again, showing the audience the flip book every time any character sees it.

I’ll tell you why. Not many among Aamir’s target audience would notice what’s happening with the flip book at the first or second go. What is a flip book to begin with, not many parents know.

I remember my own flip book, we all had one, it was a fun thing for us, we’d draw those cartoons for days together, then flip the book and laugh about it. However it wasn’t a note copy, or a book, or a very important apparatus for the science lab, or geometry box, so our parents didn’t know about it. I never showed my flip book to them for one.

Ishaan’s flip book conveyed two important facts, one that he was very disturbed about going to boarding school and second, that the so called duffer and idiot could think of making a flip book with amazing art work in it.

It’s not easy to convey emotions or generally communicate, when the characters in the scene are not howling / crying, not even talking. For both, the characters in the story and the audience in the theater, flipping the book was important to convey the above two facts.

If Aamir would have showed the flipping once and rest of the time would have showed the back of the book, some of them in the movie theater would have been like… “why are they looking at the book again and again? The kid only made a picture in it.” Don’t mind but yes some times audience are dumb. (Sometimes? Well…)

Next, Raja writes about Aamir’s character ‘Nikumbh’…

Aamir now balances his own character speaking like a Public Service Announcement with Ishaan’s father spouting lines seemingly written for… laughs?

“Speaking like a Public Service Announcement?” I don’t even know what does it means to be speaking like one.

Nikumbh by profession talks about stuff regular people don’t know, so we hear him talking about the Government of India’s initiative ‘sarva shiksha abhiyan’. He knows all about dyslexia, its symptoms, causes and effects, because he himself has suffered from it and also because he is a teacher at a school for differently able people.

The character spoke in a manner of a concerned teacher, who knows exactly what he is talking about, who is there to tell the parents, their child has a problem and they, instead of taking note of it, have pushed him to an even worse corner, the boarding school.

Of course the character wouldn’t sound like the happy go lucky guy next door.

About the parent’s angle in the film Raja Sen writes…

The child’s mother rapidly goes from confused-but-undoubtedly-caring to one who thinks Googling dyslexia is Enough. In fact, the whole parental angle is left considerably half-baked, seeming to serve only for a few good comebacks the teacher gets to make.

Hello? says who? Googling is NOT enough. That’s what Nikhumbh said. When Ishaan’s dad came bragging, “My wife Googled for it, so I came to tell you, it’s not like we don’t care for our child,” Nikumbh shook the shit out of the father explaining what it means ‘to care’, how it is everything but Googling and finished saying, “am glad you thought you cared.”

The parental angle IS half baked, because they decided not to do anything about the child, and send him off to a boarding school and sit back. That’s the plot. That’s what most parents would do, and the movie is a message to them to think twice. Now, I understand you would rather want to see the child staying with parents, the mother suddenly realizing he has dyslexia, and fix it and all, but then you will have to change the plot, make a different film.

On the transformation from being dyslexic to not dyslexic he says…

This is wrong in particular, to show and identify the problem and then dismiss it in a manner of minutes. It is all very well to depict that love and care will conquer all, but the process cannot be as simple as making Plasticine elephants.

Another critique (also a friend) said similar thing that the transformation was way too easy.

You know guys, there is another place where you can learn all about “how to cure dyslexia”, its called ‘medical college’. Parents with dyslexic kids, don’t come to see TZP with the expectation that you’ll figure out how to help your child.

The movie just talks about two things, (1) that some child are dyslexic but they still are special, all kids need not be a part of the rat race, they can live with just obtaining pass marks in history, physics etc while excel in other streams, painting for example, or acting as Abhishek Bacchan did. (2) They can overcome dyslexia with a bit of help and compassion. The movie is not about a struggle, it’s about parenthood. Parent’s and teacher’s attitude towards special children.

Also to quote Rajeev Masand (whose review I liked the most so far) in my support…

Lest you be mistaken, let me make it clear that although it’s centred around a dyslexic protagonist, Taare Zameen Par is not a film about dyslexia. Nor is it a film about any disease or disorder. It’s a film about parents and children.

Mr. Raja Sen ends his review fatally, much like what he himself says about the movie…

Taare flounders fatally at the end. Sure, it’s okay to appease the masses with a tacked-on and cheesy ending, but for a film which stresses that we need to give our kids their space and not force themselves into constant comparisons, a film which asks them to take their time to find their talents, the climax becomes about a competition, about how winning magically makes everything better. And that’s a scary thought, in context of what the film tries to say, overall.

He calls the ending cheesy. Now that’s blasphemy. The ending of any movie is always extremely important. There are flicks which have been mediocre throughout but a strong ending has made up for it. Am not saying TZP has the best possible ending ever, but using words like, “flounders fatally” “appease masses” “cheesy ending”, for an outstandingly appealing movie like TZP, for a movie that is a must watch in this drought ridden industry of quality cinema, bad choice of words Mr. Raja, real bad.

And what did you say, competition? That’s all you can find in the last scene? And climax? Is it a murder mystery?

First, winning didn’t make everything magically better, winning in a stream where the child’s hidden talents were, painting competition, did. Duh, seriously it seems like you didn’t follow the movie at all.

Second, nothing was better magically. The kid and his mentor both worked hard to get over the dyslexia (now you’ll say that was not evident, to which I’ll say it’s not a documentary). Nikumbh mentions to the parents how Ishaan’s self confidence was weakened to the core due to constant scolding and ridicule, although he was able to get over dyslexia, it was important to help him gain back his lost self confidence and that’s what the competition was for.

The competition was for both teachers and students, idea was to push them, to come out of their discipline ridden capsules, and so they did, including the principal, and what followed is a lot of love and laughter. At the art competition, the students dared for the first time to laugh at their teachers, they made fun of maths teacher’s hopeless attempts to paint, made caricature of Hindi teacher. To witness all these was important for Ishaan because he was by now some one who was scared of everyone around. This was important to assure him, no body would scold him no more.

To my convenience, Taran Adarsh gives a counter view (to Raja Sen) about the film’s ending…

But the best part is reserved for the finale — the art competition in the penultimate twenty minutes. The emotions reach an all-time high as the kid regains his confidence. The finale would melt even the stone-hearted!

Phew!! Dear Mr. Raja Sen, I have never read any of your reviews or any other writing before, I don’t know a thing about who you are except your name, I found your review via search engines, but if I had to make a judgment from just this review of yours, your review is biased, in favour of the idea that critiques have to write both good and bad, for the heck of it to appear unbiased. See the irony?

Also cross posted on Great Indian Mutiny

30 thoughts on “Taare Zameen Par | My response to Raja Sen’s Review

  1. i agree completely with your post
    about the ending:

    the ending shows that even when it is showed that ishaan has great painting skill still it must be proved that it really exists a competition proves that point!
    and of course we cannot tolerate mindless competition however it does not means that medocracy can be tolerated. the movie in fact tell us that it is not important to be best in studies or academics but it is important to be best in whatever we chose to do.

    btw if you find my grammar a bit odd let me tell you something even i have a learning disabilty!!!

    also as for his mom goggling all i can say from my experience the time taken by parents to accept the dyslexia is around 6 months.

    also the teacher talk about progress of ishaan that him getting better marks than earlier and not topping.

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  2. i would have called the ending as cheesy if it would have shown that he tops the class or his painting is sold for few lacs etc.
    even in the whole competition ishaan is never told to do best or come first you don’t find him being told either by nikumbh or anyone else to give his best etc. which does not make it a competition is a bad sense

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  3. Yes Akshay, you are right. Thanks for putting more insight in the competition angle.

    In Delhi this on the spot painting competition is a hot favourite amongst kids and parents. Every independence day, republic day, Nehru Bal Mela they have it all around.

    It never is viewed as a competition in the true sense, its a fun activity for kids of all age groups.

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  4. we have to agree that the critics are blind at times. they totally forget the fact that what they write off as some eye-sore movie or pointless climax, was someone else’s months of preparation and effort.

    Watching a movie, you can surely make out the diff between a hard work and one that was merely put up for namesake.

    i always wonder whether even 1% of the so called critics really are eligible for their job…

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  5. May be this is what all Critics should read first before they write anything.

    Words by the character Anton Ego from the movie Ratatouille(2007): “In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face is that, in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is more meaningful than our criticism designating it so. But there are times when a critic truly risks something, and that is in the discovery and defense of the new.”

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  6. Nice post… I have been watching reviews from friday evening…waited for rajiv’s at 10.30… this is one of the most expected movies..Aamir is perfectonist!!..’m going to watch a movie after 6 months.. I havent watched it yet. Lemme watch it and surely u can find atleast one comment from me ;)

    Thanks!

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  7. Sanjukta,

    Nice rip-off on Raja Sen and Masand.

    Your frank opinion of the movie reflects what people want to see more of in movies. I especially like the paragraph below which sort of summarizes the movie for me. I just wish you wouldn’t give the ending away ;-).

    Reviewers get carried away with the idea of “critiquing” the movie, highlighting the good and bad and often confusing the two. For them, getting the audience to connect with the movie (without giving it away) is not high on their list of priorities.

    – Santosh (from http://blog.bookeazy.com)

    > Nikumbh mentions to the parents how
    > Ishaan’s self confidence was weakened to
    > the core due to constant scolding and
    > ridicule, although he was able to get over
    > dyslexia, it was important to help him
    > gain back his lost self confidence and
    > that’s what the competition was for.

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  8. @ Santosh

    Yes..sorry my mistake shouldn’t have given the ending away..Now the damage is done…considering edit let’s see..its on Mutiny also…hmm

    Thanks for liking the post :)

    @ Manoj

    Waiting for your comments

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  9. jhakaas !!! I can’t tolerate reviews of these guys anymore…Nikhat Kazmi and this Raja Sen…they are biased…stars fall from the sky in their reviews in the Shahrukh-Johar-Chopra productions

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  10. Hats off to TZP team..specially to the captain Aamir. Fantastic job.Its always an unwilled expecattion on Aamir movies.He fought again to prove that he is perfectionist!!. Very Nice movie.. Waiting for DVD’s now :)

    If we are talking about Reviews/Critics..then.. forget it!! People who hardly make any movies for indian audience are always been in the top slot.Hope they show some kind of social responsibilty in cinema along with increasing the revenue of indian govt, which finally corroded by our own ‘babus’

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  11. rip off u guys,critics are the people who should be criticised the most..if u rate this movie bad,poor u,u just dont have anything in part called brain..lolz this is 1 of d best movies i ever saw,n u say it big no..vat more u want,bache ki jaan lega kya

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  12. Well said Sanjukta.Raja Sen’s review was totally unfair. I read your reaction in rediff’s messageboard, below the review.

    The ending/climax to the film was just right. The child gets the boost he needs to do well in all other aspects, as well as he can. We all need such boosts, simply to keep going.

    The teachers in the film do mention finally that Ishaan is improving in his studies.
    What a positive film, TZP.

    And Jerry, thanks for those words from the film Ratatouille–I am copyiong that bit onto imdb’s Indian Cinema Board, a place that abounds with self-aggradizing super critics, ready to take a sincere film apart.

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  13. “3 Tickets?Taare Zameen par,” I asked at the Advance Booking counter.A
    guy next to me said,”Arre Welcome ka show hai naa??”.His friend looked
    at the poster and predicted,”Mast timepass rahegi!”.Hmmm..I
    thought..Should I also take Welcome?Who wants to get bored for 3 hrs
    anyway?By the time I could decide,the counterwalla had the tickets
    ready for me.Disappointedly I paid and said to myself,”Chal na.Iske
    baad Welcome dekh lenge”.

    The introduction started with jumbling letters and a colourful
    animation. Then I saw water.And a face. Face with a focused
    look..innocently sticking his tongue out in concentration.His aim?
    Kidnap fishes from the gutter.

    I think I had moist eyes.Was I seeing the 8-yr old…ME? For the next
    2.5 hrs I had frequent chocking lumps in my throat with an inability to
    breathe properly. Sounds like torture. But Felt like magic.. :)

    I think by this time we all know what the movie is all about.And also
    its flaws-thanks to some _____(don’t know what) out there in the world
    who don’t have enough capacity to enjoy anything fully.

    I am writing this column only for those who pointed out flaws in the
    movie.I have a question for you guys.

    How many movies have you so
    critically-intellectually-arrogantly-insensitively analysed? Or should
    I ask,”How many movies have you even analysed?”.This movie has got even
    the non-writers writing for it,discussing the
    angles,quality,direction,scene details and what not.Can you think why?

    I didn’t find any interesting blog discussing about the technical details
    of OSO,Welcome,Partner etc etc..What is making us discuss so much about
    TZP guys??

    Its the impact that the movie made on you.The tears which were rolling
    down your eyes..the helpless expressions of Ishaan which forced you to
    introspect..and probably the overly critical nature of his father and
    teachers..which you want to defend.

    TZP is above any criticism or any cynic who knows the price of
    everything and the value of nothing(thank you Nikumbh Sir). You guys
    criticized the movie for being slow,Amir crying too much,having seen
    some empty beds,unnecessary songs…How come you TZP-critiques forgot
    to criticize Ishaan’s father? How come you guys forgot to criticize the
    way his art teacher punished him?How come you guys forgot to criticize
    the sports teacher for fairing pathetically at the painting
    competition??

    Probably because these people reflect a little of you all…

    Get a life friends. If you keep judging TZP,you’ll have no time to love
    it.

    On a light note..What if I had been razor sharp to stop that
    counterwaala from tearing the tickets and had instead taken the tickets
    of Welcome???? Sigh…

    Taare Zameen Par.

    A movie which made me realise that

    Sometimes in life,it is healthy to be slow and dumb.

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  14. Such overwhelming response from you guys..wow am happy :)

    Layon, Manoj, Mann, Dhivya, Lalita, Rupesh Vikram… Thanks a lot

    Dips..well written post.
    the non-writers writing for it,discussing the
    angles,quality,direction,scene details and what not.Can you think why?

    So true.. valid point, last i remember the bloggers wrote with all heart about a movie was about “Hazaar khwaishe aisi”

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  15. ..some people did not appreciate the idea of a competition in the end..
    if they could just think about a few things here…

    Would you stick on to a friend who never appreciated you for being loyal and caring ?
    Would you continue working under a boss who never appreciated your efforts ?
    Would you continue loving a guy/girl who never appreciated your love ?
    Would you be a confident individual if you were never appreciated but only criticized?
    Would you have the zeal to move ahead in life if you were never appreciated for anything ?

    What are we trying to prove by showing that Ishaan won the competition ? That he is better than others ? He’s the best ? Others are idiots? Duffers?
    Or………
    That he finally gets appreciated…

    Now. Why through a competition? Of almost 100 students. Teachers included.
    Why were the teachers even included ?
    Because the competition was not for him.
    It was for the others.
    To lose from someone whom they thought was himself a loser.
    An idiot.Duffer.
    To ‘appreciate’ him for what he was good at.
    Something at which all ‘others’ failed.
    Others who made fun of him.
    Others who called him a duffer. Idiot.
    Others who comprised of those students and teachers.

    If people have still not understood, probably they never will…..
    And if they have,they better ‘appreciate’ TZP for what it is.

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  16. I’ve regularly read Raja Sen’s reviews for too long now. No, not because he is ‘GOOD’ at his craft, but because he is a ‘BAD’ film critic and is often quite biased. This can be deduced from the fact that Mr. Sen lavished praises on Himesh Reshamiya for KARZ, while the fact is that he SUCKED B.I.G T.I.M.E

    By poring thru Raja’s reviews, I get a chance to separate trash from the goodies.

    Like

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