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Return to innocence

His Ram Shankar Nikumbh is the Pied Piper of Taare Zameen Par. And with his directorial debut, Aamir Khan has again proved to be the Pied Piper of Bollywood, just like he did with his maiden production Lagaan six years ago. Only this time, with complete creative control, he has made something quite unique to the very language of cinema.

For all of us being bombarded Friday after Friday with one glitzy gimmick after another, from heaving bosoms to sweaty six packs, Taare Zameen Par comes as a sudden speed-breaker. A film that cuddles you, cajoles you and finally confronts you, it’s unlike anything you have seen before.

Taare Zameen Par takes its time. The deliberate languorous pace can seem a tad boring initially, with Aamir focussing on the most minute details of the daily life of eight-year-old Ishaan Awasthi (Darsheel). He rolls in bed from one end to the other, makes a timely jump in a pool of water on the street, breaks out into an impromptu jig outside the classroom — it’s as if you are watching Ishaan, the big boss of his own reality show.

But it’s not long before you find yourself revisiting your own childhood, those long lost school days where you would hide behind the bench, elaborately pick your nose, make the worst painting in the world and burst with pride about it. And this is the triumph of the film. Dyslexia, the lack of awareness of the parents, the complete irresponsibility of teachers are all there, but Taare’s biggest achievement is taking you back to the best years of your life.

With Aamir entering the frame only at intermission point, it’s quite incredible that you not only stay rooted during the first half of the three-hour-long movie, but you also start rooting for Darsheel’s Ishaan. Easily the best child actor seen on the Indian screen, Darsheel hardly has one page of lines to deliver throughout the movie. But right from the opening credits, Aamir allows Darsheel to lead from the front. He smiles, sulks and sobs straight into your heart.

Working with largely untrained children and unknown actors, Taare sees the world entirely from the point of view of the child. Barring the mother, the elder brother and, of course, the arts teacher Aamir, all the teachers and even the father are loud, over-the-top caricatures. Which is just right, because in a child’s world, adults never gain complete entry.

Helping Aamir bring to life — with a whole lot of colours — the sensitive writing of Amole Gupte is the soul-stirring music of Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy and the fluid camerawork of Setu.

You watch the film, which you must, and you will realise why the Black controversy reared its ugly head. But unlike Bhansali’s manipulative ways of tugging at your heart, Taare Zameen Par moves you most naturally. Your hanky will be soaked here too, but you may realise it only after leaving the hall.

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