Hindi Medium Film Review: Medium Is The Message

| May 21, 2017 | 0 Comments

We don’t need no education, we don’t need no thought control…All in all it’s just another brick in the wall, all in all you’re just another brick in the wall. Pink Floyd challenging and admonishing the repressive education system.

The many wrongs with our education system have been dealt seriously or with dollops of humour in Munna Bhai MBBS, 3 Idiots. Last year there was an indie film Chalk N Duster that dealt with politics and many ills affecting our prevalent education system. My favorite film dealing with class divide in schools is still Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikander.

Hindi Medium is topical in the sense that it deals with the admission woes suffered by parents who want their children to study in English medium schools as they symbolize upward mobility, sophistictation, a password to better colleges and then jobs with MNCs. These schools spell culture whether it’s real or put on, it does not matter. Whether English as a colonial hangover is doing our country harm or has been a blessing, is a matter of debate and discussion.

Raj Batra (Irrfan Khan)and Mithu (Saba Qamar) want their daughter  Piya admitted in one of the top five schools in New Delhi. He is a successful businessman from Chandni Chowk, but few kilometers away in South Delhi, his money has no significance as it does not represent class. One major yardstick of being classy is that you and your kids talk English, walk English. Irrfan is handicapped with the language, whereas Mithu has a hang of it but not command over it, though she uses this language as a political tool of superiority over Raj.They endure and manipulate,under-go coaching classes themselves for interviews and go to extremes for admission of their daughter.

The divide between the rich and classy, moneyed but country cousins is brought out.The poor condition of government schools versus convent schools is underscored. Then the misuse of Right To Education (RTE) is dealt with where people fake to be poor to get their wards admitted in elite schools. There is  also a subplot that kicks in almost half way into the film, steered by Shyam aka Deepak Dobriyal that makes poverty almost a virtue and poor being better in upholding humane values than the hypocritical rich. This is I think is stretching the reality a bit too far.

But all this is fleshed out with humour and wit by Zeenat Lakhani and Saket Chaudhri’s original screenplay. Infact the dialogues by Zeenat deserve special mention for their wit, satire, and nuanced sub-text.

Saket Chaudhry is in total command of his material as he extracts wonderful performances from otherwise accomplished Irrfan Khan and Pakistani actress Saba Qamar’s (of TV series Maat and Thakan fame). Deepak Dobriyal portrays  other side of the divide by his tempered and even performance as a man who is on the margins, has heart of gold, and dreams his son to be the one to get out of this crushing cycle of poverty by studying in an upmarket English medium school.

As if this was not enough, there is principal Amrita Singh of a prestigious school who is a no-nonsense woman, runs the school as her fiefdom, indulges the elite and symbolizes education as a business.

So many issues encapsulated in just one story could lead to confusion, but it goes to the credit of screenplay writers and the director that it is rather kept alive and kicking with the dollops of humour, depiction of reality with amusing situations and incidents, and the tender,touchy chemistry between Raj and Mithu.

It’s in the second half that the film takes a dive and becomes melodramatic,preachy and somewhat holier-than-thou. Wish some space was given to audience imagination to figure out and wrestle with the mess the education system is in.

Still the pros score over the cons. Hindi Medium is definitely a whiff of fresh air, in another wise arid and dry Bollywood sphere. A small budget movie with a big heart. If medium is the message then it delivers the message in an entertaining and most of the time engaging manner.

Pink Floyd may have been right in a different context. But the fact of the matter is that we do need education. What is more important is not the school you study in, but what you study and the values you are instilled with to become a better human being. So go for it whether you are studying in an English or hindi medium, elite or government school. It educates, informs you while keeping you entertained.

Rating:

 

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Category: Reviews

About the Author ()

Dhieraj Mohan is Hindi cinema's keen observer. With earnest interest in its dynamics and constantly changing milieu he revels in dwelling on the discrepancies, idiosyncrasies,contradictions,masala and the formula that defines Bollywood.He is a poet and a screenwriter too,who simply adores Hindi cinema's chameleon like traits.

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