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Secret Superstar Movie Review: Leaves A Sense Disappointment & Dissatisfaction

Subhash K . Jha

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Secret Superstar

Starring:  Zaira Wasim,Aamir Khan

Directed by: Advait Chandan

Rating: ** ½ (two and a  half stars)

It is easy  and comforting to get swayed  by  the  rags-to-riches  fable constructed with such contemporary diligence  and zeal by  first-time director Advait Chandan  . But once you  get to penetrate  the  bubble  of  bonhomie  and  get into thick of things,  so to speak, you come face-to-face with an ennerving sterility.

Secret Superstar  is one  of those well-meaning films that keeps reminding you constantly of his well-meaning it is. Many times as I watched Advait Chandan’s panoply of  tricks and  treats   I  felt I was  being offered a Christmas deal with ‘Santa’ Aamir Khan mentoring  the film’s 15-year old wanna-shine Zaira Wasim whose brilliance as an actor is far  more dazzling than anything that is written  into this film to support her dreams.

Everyone, we are told in many different ways in this stretched-out ode to wish-fulfilment, has the right to  dream. Insia(Wasim) wants to be  a musician, a fact that is rudely and ruthlessly repudiated  by her rough and  impatient Daddy, played by a remarkably self-assertive actor named Raj Arjun.

Predictably and conveniently Daddy is a despot,much in the same way as Ishaan’s daddy in  Taare Zameen Par….Oh, didn’t I tell you?Secret Superstar is a not-so-secret carryover from the other far more  moving and rousing drama where a dyslexic kid was pulled  out of his crushing plight by his art teacher. Aamir Khan’s saviour streak triumphed  again.

A  lot of people  thought the climax of Taare Zameen Par was way too Utopian to be a convincing antidote to the dystopian condition  of  the little protagonist’s life. In Secret Superstar the theme  of  wish-fulfilment  is played  out at  a much louder octave, almost like a flag being waved at  us from the pulpit of  righteousness that screams at us with messages of the empowerment  of the girl child.

This is  the  world Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist transposed  into a state  of magnified melodrama where the orphan will ask for more porridge even if the man providing the  food is a tyrant.

Yes,we get it. But do we have to keep getting it for 150 minutes?

You will find more subtlety in the girl-power plugs and Beti Bachaoendorsements on Doordarshan than in this  film .Secret Superstarfavours a pulpit propagandist tone  of  narration that kills most of the tenderness that the theme secretes  in its initial stages. We know the girl is a hero.We know she  will conquer  her father’s bullying tactics because she has a strong-willed mother(played with teeshirt-top messaging bravura by Meher Vij)  , a supportive friend(Tirth Sharma  , giving the  film’s most endearing  performance) and most of all,Insia ke paas Shakti hai….No, not just nari-Shakti  but Shakti Kumar,a  loud obnoxious embarrassment  of a music composer  who mentorsInsia to stardom.

From  the time Aamir Khan swaggers  into the plot as Shakti  Kumar, the film begins to fall apart. The  narrative crumbles under the burden of  the character’s inflated flamboyance .Unable to  bear  the weight of its egoistic  character Aamir’s performance is more a homage toShakti Kapoor and his brand of   ‘Aaa-ooo’ brand of self-assertion  than Anu Malik or Nadeem Saifi(the two composers he seems to have copied).

Shakti Kumar is a  product of a superstar’s vainglorious yearning to  stutter  his skills.It’s  a character  written in italics mostly exclamation marks, in the same  league as Hrithik Roshan’s  hammy turn in  SoorajBarjatya’s Main Prem Ki Deewani Hoon, but rescued here by his proclivity to sniff out a good deed , much in the same  same way as Harvey Weinstein would if he decided to build a  monastery  in Silicone Valley.

Secret Superstar is  suffused in spasms  of  nobility, piloted by its idealism  and finally transported to  a self-congratulatory finishing line  by a central character who is everything that a brand ambassador for female  empowerment should be. Cleverly the film steers away from religious references and restrictions,  although the burkha plays a big hand in the protagonist’s journey from oppression to creative liberation.

It  was  easier for Aamir Khan to take religious digs at  holy cows inPK where the target was a pacifist majority. Now  of course the rules  have changed. If you want to be  satirical and  censorious at the cost of religious oppression  then you must be prepared  for a  backlash.The gau rakshaks are  watching the holy cows.  Secret Superstar  simply opts to be cute about its veiled references and succeeds in conveying  an engaging though self-limiting saga   of smothering the smothered  protagonist’s  radicalized state of  being.

No wonder this  film was originally titled Aaj Phir Jeene KiTamannah Hai. This is Waheeda Rehman’s clarion call for emancipation from  Vijay Anand’s Guide given a patriarchal payoff by  a loud and  boorish mentor and  guide who wants to be labeled  a liberal feminist.

Secret Superstar is a heartwarming portrayal of girl power. A  bit of  restrain and some muted melodrama  would have taken this film much further.It has long sturdy legs. But chooses not to go far enough.

 

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