Hichki Is A Breath of Fresh Air And Much-Needed Empathy #MovieReview

Posted: March 28, 2018

When movies like Hichki come your way, it is like a breath of fresh air from the tiresome substandard Bollywood masala films. Hichki is a good Hindi movie after such a long time.

Hichki’s lead protagonist is Naina Mathur (Rani Mukerji), who is plagued with the incurable Tourette’s Syndrome from childhood. It is a common neuropsychiatric disorder characterised by sudden, repetitive, non-rhythmic movements and utterances that involve discrete muscle groups. Unlike stammering, stuttering, slurring or lisping, people with the Tourette’s Syndrome have no control over their sudden speech outbursts even when they do not utter a single word. Fortunately, Tourette’s does not affect the intelligence or life expectancy of a person.

The movie is centred around Naina Mathur and her struggles in finding acceptance in mainstream society. She is exceptionally intelligent and dreams of becoming a teacher despite her Tourette´s condition. There are other sub-plots in the movie as well, revolving around the characters that she encounters at her workplace or school.

Hichki is an adaption of the movie Front of the Class which is again based on a book by the same name written by Brad Cohen and Lisa Wysocky.

What works

The character of Naina Mathur is wonderfully etched and ably portrayed by Rani Mukerji. Naina’s character will appeal to everyone because of her positive and resilient attitude. It’s interesting to note that Naina Mathur does not see her Tourette’s Syndrome condition as something which is abnormal or even a disability in the first place. That I think works in favour of the movie.

This quiet confidence of Naina Mathur in her abilities is shown to us right from the start. In the classrooms, where she is admonished by her teachers and mocked at by her classmates, Naina Mathur holds her ground and stands still as a rock. Nothing seems to shake her confidence. At every opportunity given, she makes no bones about telling people why she is the way she is – Tourette´s Syndrome. I loved the scene where she tells her Principal Mr. Khan quite matter-of-factly about her condition, her problems in the classroom and how she wishes that she were treated normally just like the other students. A wish that is granted by Mr. Khan.

It teaches us the important lesson that unless we stand up for ourselves, no one else will. All change begins from within. Rejections and failures don’t deter Naina’s spirit. There are only two crucial points in the movie where Naina wishes that she never had the Tourette’s Syndrome. The first scene is portrayed by the child actor who plays Naina and the second scene is portrayed by Rani Mukerji. It is the external circumstances which drive her to the point of breakdown and makes her rue her condition. But, Naina Mathur is made of steel and bounces back stronger.

Thank heavens, Rani Mukerji is back! It’s a treat watching her on the silver screen. She proves that neither marital status or motherhood can affect one’s talent or box-office success. Yes, she has aged and cannot be compared to twenty something actresses anymore. But, she looks great at forty and more importantly, she is a fine actress. Rani infuses oodles of charm to the character of Naina Mathur and makes her endearing and inspiring. Rani Mukerji is smart and talented and will surely be remembered as one of the most respected Indian actors of all time.

In a movie that is focussed on Rani Mukerji, it is quite easy to ignore or minimise the roles of the supporting cast. But not in Hichki. Rani Mukherji is supported by an excellent group of actors – her parents played by real-life couple Sachin and Supriya Pilgaonkar, Mr. Khan by Vikram Gokhale, the Principal by Shivkumar Subramaniam, fellow class teacher by Neeraj Kabi, school peon by Asif Basra and the students. The movie is a wonderful testimony to how everyone can shine brilliantly next to each other under the sun.

The movie tries to dispel the preconceived notions and myths of the normal. There is a scene in the movie where Rani Mukerji gets rejected at a job interview by the Principal for her speech disability. She retorts that if it were up to her, he would never have been hired in the first place as a Principal for his reasoning disability.

The movie holds a mirror to the modern day education system in India. Having worked briefly as a college teacher, I can vouch for the fact that the movie is an accurate reflection of the current reality – the politics amongst the class teachers, the subtle discrimination between privileged and poor students, the halo effect around the class achievers, the gross neglect of the weaker students, lack of respect and trust between teachers and students and more.

The movie is not about Rani Mukerji’s hichki (stutter/impediment) alone, but the hichki of every character in the movie. It is an irony that Naina Mathur plays a saviour who helps the other characters in the movie remove all their hichkis. The movie shows us how truth and positivity has a cascading effect on everyone. Naina Mathur brings a sea-change in the people around her, and thereby the entire ethos of the school.

A few other quick facts that work in the movie’s favour: The movie is highly engaging, spirited, moving and well-directed.  Thankfully, there are no forced romantic subplots or love triangles between Naina Mathur and another class teacher or anybody. No mandatory saree dress code for female teachers. Big thumbs up!

What doesn’t work

Hichki has minor flaws. The fact that the Principal listens to a newly appointed teacher, Naina Mathur as opposed to the other teachers is unbelievable, as are some of the complete turnarounds shown. It doesn’t quite work like that in real life – at least not as easily as depicted in the movie. But, considering that it is a film with a timeline and message, one can easily overlook these minor flaws.

In conclusion

Hichki is a good family entertainer. It is in particular, a must-watch for students and educators for its lessons on empathy and the powerful impact that a teacher has on the students’ morale and self-esteem.

I strongly recommend watching this movie on the big screen for its sensitive storyline and fine performances.

Rating

3.5/5 (An extra half for Rani’s sincere acting)

Did you watch Hichki? How did you like it? I would love to read your comments. 

First published here.

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