Director- Siddharth P Malhotra
Actors- Rani Mukerji, Harsh Mayar, Neeraj Kabi
“There are no bad students. Only, bad teachers,” Naina Mathur asserts, as she fights her own drawback and those of her students in a desperate attempt at being accepted in a society that’s often unforgiving for being “different”.
Diagnosed with the nagging Tourette Syndrome, a nervous system disorder whose symptoms are involuntary motor tics and grunting sounds, she’s faced rejection early on in her life. Twelve schools and 14 job rejections later, she doesn’t let the world crush her spirit. Determined to make a difference, she comes to terms with her condition and steps out and flaunts her “annoying stammer” without a care in the world.
She soon finds a tiny army of young people from the slums to join her in the fight towards equality and acceptance. They are a classroom of underprivileged failures in a posh Catholic school whose snobbish teachers rejected them as kids who don’t deserve a chance. But the kids don’t make it easy for the new teacher. She grittily wins them over eventually in the first half despite attempts by the kids at petty pranks and mini-explosions in the classroom. Director Siddharth P Malhotra and writer Ankur Chaudhry’s adaption of Hollywood’s Front of the Class is designed to give Rani Mukerji a glorious act.
Her physical drawback is well etched, and not exaggerated to tug our hearts, but is used to effectively show how some lives are more challenging than others. Possibly one of those rare moments in Bollywood where the medical condition is consistently showcased and not misused for the tears!
Unfortunately, Hichki starts to crumble as the writers forget to create solid acts for its supporting cast. Most of them are merely left to applaud Mukherji’s faultless performance over 118 minutes of screen time. So, you watch them appear and disappear at random, failing to make any real impact or connect.
Neeraj Kabi, who earlier won us over with his spectacular performance in Talwar, steps in as a “bad teacher” who refuses to look beyond the socio-economic boundaries. He’s restricted to play it in one stroke and only reveals his true genius, unfortunately, towards the end. Supriya and Sachin Pilgaonkar appear in bits and are given very little to dabble with.
Even the children, especially Aatish played remarkably by Harsh Mayar, aren’t given the chance to showcase their worth. Their circumstances are manipulated, and reduced to a cliché. Montage shots of the slums, or of its inhabitants struggling to make ends meet or find a future that’s devoid of poverty appears forced, and lacks honesty.
That’s because the focus is reserved entirely for Mukherji and her journey. While there’s no questioning her acting credentials, she’s unable to hold fort despite lending immense credibility to Naina.
Let’s just say, Hichki is unable to create the love, or magic that Sidney Poitier created in the British classic To Sir, With Love. But, it’s one that will win over Rani Mukerji fans.