When you go to watch a movie which has anything to do with Aamir Khan, you are sure to watch a good movie which generally encompasses a good script, great acting, super music, somewhat longer than needed length, message-oriented, barring Dhoom 3 of course, and an ensemble cast of supporting actors who fit perfectly into the role, thanks to Mukesh Chhabra’s expertise.
With Secret Superstar, Aamir forms the supporting cast and Zaira Wasim forms the main role, so your perspective changes a bit. Think of, Dhobi Ghat as an example of Aamir’s limited appearance in a film.
The first 20mins into the movie and you know where the plot is headed and there are no surprises left for you to either root or cringe for. It almost gives you a sense of fill in the blanks, where scenes are jumped at a rapid pace leaving the audience to interpret the connecting dots. now if this was by design at the editing table, then there is a problem, its called continuity, but if it was out of ignorance, then there is a bigger problem, and it is called attention to detail. ( side note: Insiya’s forehead scar has uneven screen time, again if by design, then it needed further detailing!)
The mother-daughter conversations are clunky and sometimes sound too artificial or unreal in the context of the timeline of the narrative.It doesn’t give you enough time to warm up if you know what I mean. It needed some scenes to showcase how Zaira’s life was going so far, and how she secretly learned to play, with some background scenes on why the mother-daughter relationship had become more friendly than most other typical relationships.
The role played by Raj Arun as the abusive husband, needed some background to his character development. Was it childhood trauma, was it his personal abuse, was he just plain diabolical. You see all these small tidbits make the film more compact. There was so much scope for this Farokh Malik’s character to make you cringe in your seat.
Meher Vij , one look at her and you could mistake her for Manisha Koirala from 1942 A love Story look.Her character was also not well defined, or if it was, it was not well articulated on screen. On most occasions, a woman who has been brutalized repeatedly will not have a regular happy look on her face. The post beating scars tend to disappear a little too quickly in my view.
So when you sum up her character, in the end, it comes across that she was actually a very stubborn and strong character, and if so, then the 80% of the time she is on screen none of those character traits are shown. In fact, she is depicted as submissive.The narrative could have ratcheted up a storm of built up emotions exploding in a crescendo at the airport. That would have given a character consistency without sounding contradictory. Because if you are a resolute survivor then your mannerisms will be different.
Zaira Wasim tries her best with her meaty role.She needed to underplay the emotions a little bit. Why? Because when a growing child watches ab abusive parent, they tend to recoil into a shell instead of becoming outgoing and outspoken. Think of Benedict Cumberbatch as Charles Aiken in August: Osage County. Not that it is a true compare, but more to give you an idea of the impact on the mind of a child.
Some of her teenage innocence is lost on onscreen by trying to portray a mature emotion. I’d have loved to see some scenes of fumbled love, or confusion on her life, her father etc. for the most part she seems sorted mentally knowing what to do, which is unlikely for most teenagers, unless of course if they are a genius. And if they wanted to show Insiya as a child protegé /genius then there needed to be a few more scenes to that effect highlighting her genius abilities before YouTube going viral.
Finally, Shakti Kumar will go down as one of Aamir Khan’s lesser proud characters. It was more of a caricature than getting into the role.The script was such that almost everything was too much too soon. From the video going viral to stars connecting, meeting at the airport, alone in a city like Mumbai, where there are 50,000 singers, and good ones at that, waiting for a break sitting right outside every studio.
Not much thought was given to Shakti – did not come across as a pivotal character as one would have liked it to be. Think of Irfan in Talvar, though not in the same genre, the character development was such that it moved the plot forward without really taking center stage. That is the true mark of a supporting cast. They are there, but no there. And the audience misses their presence despite a good performance by the main protagonist.
The music was good in parts and the other supporting cast, Chintan (Tirth Kumar?) did a good job with the limited scope of the role. The background score was done well and the lyrics of Meri Ammi resonated that Ma from Taare Zameen Par.
From a social message standpoint, it drives home the point to the larger audience to stop fearing and start fighting. Though I must add, not many, who are contemplating breaking out of the chains, would like to see no solution after taking the plunge. What happens to Najma after she storms out? What is her life after the grand exit? This will be a question on most of the impressionable folk watching that final scene.
So, long story short, as a first attempt, I am sure this is a good effort, shows a lot of promise. However, with such fine cinematic brains behind the camera, I was surprised that Secret Superstar turned out to be quite a mediocre affair.