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Hindi Medium has the guts to take on the critical issue of the English language and a class divide, as well as our flawed education system. But, how effective a job does it do?
Last Friday, I happened to watch this movie: Hindi Medium. I did have an idea about the subject and so, I knew what to expect from the movie. And then, there are other questions like –
Was the movie good? Maybe.
Did the movie make me think? Not really.
How was the cast? Good.
How was the acting? Good.
Did the movie run in my head after I left the theater? No.
So my verdict – The movie was mediocre.
A good subject but, a wasted story that was a little far fetched from ground reality.
In our country that has no dearth of wannabes who ‘walk and talk English’ as if they are the direct descendants of the Lords of England, there is also another team that sighs on every given opportunity – Angrez gaye lekin angrezi chod gaye (The British have left, but left their language behind). How a language that is not our mother tongue has become an effective tool of class division, has been effectively showcased by Hindi Medium.
The business couple from Chandni Chowk who felt that gelling with the supposedly creamy strata of the society, the elite, the urban, the ‘English speaking’ crowd would elevate their status and thereby, help their daughter in making friends, are just one example among the million real life misguided parents living in our cities with utter discontentment and disregard for the very quality of life they are leading. Till this point, I found it real. I enjoyed the initial 45 minutes.
And then, beginning with the ridiculous ways of getting the coveted admission in an elite school run by Amrita Singh, the confused couple try every crooked trick, be it misusing the RTE or, earning the goodwill of the simple people of Bharat Nagar society for their own benefit. It is only after hitting new depths of shamelessness that they begin to notice that sarkari schools also have come a long way indeed. (Why? When the monkeys of the cap seller’s stories could advise their grand kid monkeys to not drop the caps, why on earth must sarkari schools stay behind in taking pointers from the past?) Point.
It was a little before this juncture that my interest began to wane. What a relevant subject and, how it was wasted away in the second half! Sigh.
Coming to the cast, I am not sure if I absolutely loved Irrfan in this movie (it hurts to say this because I have always loved this artist). But the person who gave me memorable moments in the movie was Deepak Dobriyal. Some of his memorable roles remain etched in my memory. As Thapa in Maqbool, as the conniving Rajoh Tiwari in Omkara, as Dukki Bana’s loyal aide Bhati in Gulaal, as the adorably cute Pappi in Tanu Weds Manu series, Deepak has run a marathon in Bollywood. But as Shyam Prasad in Hindi Medium, he has carved a niche for himself. Adorning the character of a simpleton who is unable to think in grey shades, does not come easily to every artist. And, Deepak has carried the character on his sleeve!
Hum aap jaise nahi ban sakte kyuki Hume kisi ka haq marna nahi ata! (I can’t become you because I don’t know how to grab someone else’s rights!)
This statement nailed the essence of the subject powerfully. Towards the end, the movie became a drag. Frankly, Irrfan’s speech at the end made little sense to me. The speech did not lack substance entirely. However, it did not leave an impact either. The ending was unreal, dramatic and a bit farfetched. Maybe, the ending was meant to create the necessary awareness on the ‘class-ing’ of English. However, for me the conclusion was an epic fail.
Can you imagine such a reality in our schools in the present? No. Even if we want it, we will not let it happen. Because no matter how deplorable the education system has become, no matter how schools have transformed into money making machines, deep down within we all still believe in the bulwark of our system, leaving aside the branching and enterprising aspects. And that root is, respect for the institution of education itself! Had this respect died, more than 80 percent of the educated upper middle class would have home schooled their children. But since that is not the case, we know exactly what we are dealing with and, we deal with them by whining, complaining and dissing and, yet at the same time believing that things will change for good.
And, no matter how much we all crib about the education system in the choicest of abusive words, we still send our children to the said good schools because, we believe in the institution of education. Still. That said, sarkari schools have come a long way. But, they have a long rough bumpy road ahead to catch up in the real world. What the movie showed is far far from reality.
So, let’s not over hype or under hype the reality. Truth is – the immediate need of the hour is not a change in the education system. Because, as much as the change is needed, it is not a one day, one year or, a one decade affair. The change will take much longer than that to seep in, even though it is happening in the present on a small scale. But what has to change is our attitude towards our wards. We need to let them know that as parents and as teachers, we will stand by their success and failures with the same conviction and same faith. That is all we need to work on as parents. We need to change. Our thoughts need to change. Our definitions of success and failures have to change. Are we ready for that? That is the question to be asked.
That said, the movie had a good collection of comic moments. In fact, the first half was sailing on Irrfan’s shoulders flawlessly with his Chandni Chowk charm dishing out good laughs intermittently. His struggles of getting into the skin of the elite crowd does make one sit back and grin ear to ear. And, the second half belonged to Deepak Dobriyal. Dilli me ab bhi zameer zinda hai! People Like Shyam Prasad assert it.
As for the movie, I guess it touched too many core (or sore!) points without rubbing enough salt on them. And that is where I felt the glitch in reviewing this movie positively. It showcased the dark side of education system like the abuse of RTE act, forging of legal documents and, even the great class divide that stems from the ability to speak in English. However, it failed to throw light on the real case scenario of the actual Hindi Medium schools that are struggling to achieve their position alongside the English medium ones.
With the title – Hindi Medium, the movie steered exactly in the opposite direction of its goal. It was more into showcasing the so-called importance of English speaking, while the idea was perhaps to convince the audience of the otherwise. This is where the movie failed for me. Miserably.
Despite an excellent cast, a very relevant subject and, powerful messages laced with humour, this movie is just a one time watch. Sadly though.
p.s: Tilottama Shome as the consultant was delightful to watch.
Image via movie promo stills
First published at author’s blog