The Wishing Tree Review: Hug Hope…Wishing Tree Is All Heart But Little Else

Starring: Shabana Azmi, Harshpreet Kaur, Mark Shaw, Shivani Joshi,Abhas Yadav

Written & Directed by Manika Sharma

Rating: **(2 stars)

At times, cinema is more commendable  for its intention rather than execution. On the execution level The Wishing Tree, which opened this week to a near-blank response, leaves much to be desired. The performances by the children are embarrassingly loud and selfconscious. Even the slew of veterans from the redoubtable Sourabh Shukla(bullying and spanking kids in a clumsy wig) to hardly seen veteran theatre actress Mahabano Mody-Kotwal come up with woefully clunky performances.

This  lack of tact and subtlety in telling an essentially eco-friendly parable about saving a tree could be seen to be symptomatic of what ails children’s films in our country. We  just don’t make films that connect with the younger audience. Either the so-called children’s films talk down to kids or otherwise try too hard to think and talk like children.The Wishing Tree belongs to the latter category of well-meaning but abysmally ill-informed children’s films.It aspires to walk that extra mile towards eco-awareness but ends up wheezing and breathless in no time at all, thanks to the oafish writing and hammy performances.

Nonetheless  this is a film that means well and deserves an audience for that reason. Then there is the formidable Shabana Azmi.She seems to have fun  playing an exotic esoteric mysterious eco-spirit in deep conversation with Nature. Her Nature-friendly song  shot in beautifully pristine locations .reminded me of the iconic Phir se aiyobadra bidesi song  in Gulzar’s Namkeen.

Cinematographer Rajeev Jain loves Nature. It’s the human characters who let Nature down. Writer-Director Manika Sharma builds a doddering architecture of mortifying clichés. The  four principal child characters are from the four main religions practised in ‘secular’ India. They are all given one emotional or physical shortcoming to overcome which they do with flying colours.

Harhspreet Kaur plays  Nikita who is overweight and  ridiculed. The poor kid is made to act ‘FAT & RIDICULED’ in bold  capitals.The  Muslim kid Fatima(Shivani Joshi) loves Shah Rukh Khan(pretext for video footage of SRK)  and her mom(Navneet Nishan) seconds that emotion. But Dad Rajit Kapoor is a an SRK-hater(a bad fan encounter in the past?) and when his wife jumps up in SRK’s support he reminds her that a good Muslim wife doesn’t whoop for a  man other than her husband.

Arnab won’t like this.

By the time Bobby Darling showed up as a wailing widow(no less) I was ready to cut down as many trees as it takes  to build a pyre for this nobly-intended film burning up in its own selfrighteousness.

The Wishing Tree made me wish there were less painful ways of preserving trees than being made to watch a  film that doesn’t know when to stop wagging its finger at us for being so callous towards Nature.

Sometimes talking about cruelty to Nature can be awfully cruel.

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