Director- Advait Chandan
Starring- Zaira Wasim, Meher Vij, Raj Arun and Aamir Khan
Secret Superstar tells the story of a daughter and a mother who nurture a dream and fearlessly pursue it. In the process, the film weaves such heartwarming characters and moments that it leaves you smiling and crying at the same time. Aamir Khan’s latest film has a predictable storyline, yet it works because of the simplicity with which it’s narrated. Barring a couple of sequences, the director largely keeps it real and believable and places lovable characters amid much tension. A mother hides domestic violence behind a pair of garish red coolers and the daughter silently understands her pain.
A young boy tries explaining a TV show and its characters to his grandmother. The moment is so brief, you might miss it, yet it creates the right atmosphere. It’s a comment on how screens on the walls controlled our lives before they found their way in our hands. Television is smartly used in the movie. It’s almost like a family member, distracting everyone from their battles and bonding them all in a funny sort of way. It fuels Insia’s superstar dreams as she watches her favourite singer’s acceptance speech on an awards show.
TV also introduces us to Shakti Kumar (Aamir Khan) as his controversial life plays out on gossip channels and adds some colour to the mundane boredom of middle-class families in Baroda, Gujarat. It’s a smart introduction before the character finds momentum and meaning in the movie.
Television also becomes a source of humour as the mother unwillingly gives up on her favourite show when interrupted by her young son’s potty duties. We all have announced it to the world, shouting from the loo, “Mamma kar li!”
One of my favourite characters in the movie was Chintan, a friend, a cute lover who selflessly supports his friend to achieve her dreams. Tirth Sharma, the young actor, adds so much charm and simplicity with his dimpled smile that it warms your heart. Tirth, a massive hug for you buddy if you are reading this!
The film has its flaws, too. The second half begins on a very implausible note. From Insia’s first flight to Mumbai to her first recording, everything plays out way too conveniently. Then there is Shakti Kumar, a caricature of a character, a delusional music director on the verge of fading into nothingness. His outlandish ways infuse humor in an otherwise emotional film and lighten up the tense atmosphere. Full points to Aamir Khan for being one of those rare superstars to play a supporting role. Aamir seems too aware of the obnoxious character of Shakti Kumar but looks comfortable playing it. Eventually he neither comes across as too nasty nor too nice.
The film packs in some powerful performances. Meher Vij as Insia’s mother is the most adorable character and performer. Her portrayal reminds you of your mother and you instantly want to envelop her in a bear hug. In sharp contrast is her husband Farooq Malik, play brilliantly by Raj Arun. He lends the required sternness to an otherwise under- written character. Raj evokes a lot of fear and disgust in some of the most crucial scenes of the film. He is incredible and a real revelation. Kabir Sajid and Tirth Sharma as Insia’s brother and friend respectively, are delightful actors who manage to bring ease and cheer in Insia’s tumultuous life. Even Mona Ambegaonkar in a cameo makes her presence felt. I miss her on both, the big and small screen.
And last but not the least, is Zaira Wasim who embraces Insia’s dreams and frustrations so beautifully that you find yourself completely engaged in her story. There is a scene in the toilet where she is nervous. She sits on the pot, subtly shakes her right leg and hand, without ever overdoing it and lends the right amount of restlessness to that moment. In the first song, she only stands on stage, not moving at all and yet feeling every syllable of a not-so-well written song.
Secret Superstar is a bit unbelievable, like Insia’s video getting 30 million views. But these are minor hiccups in an otherwise beautiful film. Go watch it with family this Diwali.