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Secret Superstar Review (2017) | A Mind-boggling Drama about Dreamers

Bewitching! Another gem pares out from the enthralling and artistic Aamir Khan Productions. Secret Superstar is a spellbinding tear-jerker of a drama that shouldn’t be missed for the world. It is a movie about a dreamer who dreams for the stars draped under a burkha of fetters. It is a flick about hope and despair that constantly resonates between the two. The good news is that it is outstandingly done.

The story of Secret Superstar deals with a girl and her mother trying to beat the monstrosity of societal arrest. It’s a revolt for those who have been giving up on their dreams owing to “hard to beat” circumstances. At the same time, it speaks of hope in a tone that’s definitely going to leave you with goosebumps. The movie packs messages aplenty. It addresses countless issues in its wake and leaves you immensely satisfied.

The Theme of Secret Superstar Movie

Words fail me as I try to put this movie into words. It feels personal on so many levels that it’s hard to explain how.

still of Secret Superstar Insia dreaming

The fact that Secret Superstar isn’t just limited to one theme makes it outright exceptional. There are so many issues lingering in the movie and it addresses all of them magnificently. Right from the issue of domestic violence to saving a girl child, to the issues people face nay…Indians face trying to live their dreams. It acknowledges them and portrays them in a way that racks your heart.

It is also educative when it shows you the wonders of the internet in a montage of frames. The fact that it shows the exact way of following your dreams through a simple medium like Youtube is something that is bound to open a lot of eyes. It is winning in every sense.

Since Secret Superstar revolves primarily around a singing dream, the inclusion of songs was inevitable. The gorgeous thing about the songs that were included in the flick is that their lyrics are so beautiful that they will tear you up. Complementing scenes from the movie, these songs help elevate the theme further. And it’s hard not to marvel at the creation and then of course, at the people who combinedly manufactured something so touching and impactful.

Zaira Wasim – The Secret Superstar

Such a lovely child Zaira Wasim is. The world saw her perform in Dangal last year which she aced like a true artist. Her role was limited and we couldn’t see much of her there. In Secret Superstar, being the protagonist, she gets a screentime she deserves, and boy does she deliver!

Zaira plays the character of Insia quite convincingly. She acts with a confidence many artists still struggle with.

Zaira Wasim in Secret Superstar movie

With time she is going to end up being a huge star, a bright future one can already foretell.

Dream dekhna to basic hota hai.

Her portrayal of Insia instantly becomes a relatable character. She feels forever connected, and that’s where her true strength lies. All those thoughtful things that she does for her mother, worrying about little things as if she is no longer a child are some of those things that force you to erupt at odd moments.

Meher Vij as Najma

To call Meher Vij cute would be an understatement. She literally becomes one of the songs “Meri Pyaari Ammi”.

You can hear it here:

In those fleeting frames of the song, you get the whole picture of how her portrayal of a mother was one of the most befitting portrayals that Indian Cinema has ever seen. She is flustered just the right amount, as pain literally writes itself on her face.

You can’t help but feel sorry for her character all the time. She literally epitomizes every mother in the country who chooses to suffer in silence until she doesn’t.

The Villainous Angle

Packing in arrogant perversion galore we have Raj Arjun who plays Insia’s father Farookh Malik. There is a certain aura about him that makes his sheer presence intimidating. That goes on to say nevertheless what a convincing actor he is.

still of Raj Arjun as Farookh Malik in Secret Superstar

He brings in those catastrophic elements that literally frame the story, making it clink glasses with reality.

Despite his extraordinary portrayal, you realize his true potential as a diabolical father often doesn’t make it all the way up there. Sometimes you feel the apparent lack of energy. Maybe it is the Anurag Kashyap in us that secretly wishes films to be depicted in their utter crude state.

That being said, Ronit Roy‘s portrayal of Bhairav Singh from Udaan comes to mind. The fear was more real and terrifying there or was it all amplified owing to Kashyap’s ravishing direction?

Getting into the Skin – Aamir Style

It’s amazing how Aamir Khan creates new personas out of scratch. He creates this fun character of Shakti Kumar that is not only hilarious and admirable, but also very deep. Shakti does things that people often frown upon, but the good thing is that he does it in a way that manifests that there is more to people than what shows.

still of Aamir Khan as Shakti Kumar in Secret Superstar

Talented children are like these bubbles. Nothing can stop them from going up.

Shakti Kumar is blunt in his ways, dismissive of people who do not play according to his books. But at the same time, he is a man with a golden heart. He plays that positive mentor, a guy who can actually make things happen, helping Insia wherever he could. In an emotional dramatic movie, he is that fizz of hope that brings smiles to faces even though he chooses to become a tad lewd.

Other Characters in Secret Superstar (Spoilers)

Another great perception comes from the eyes of a silent hero played by the child actor Kabir Shaikh. A child so innocent who once eavesdropped on a conversation about people leaving him behind. He does something so thoughtful that it melts your heart. The poor child who had been watching cruelty and misery upfront, sneaking behind a door, had so much heart in him that it brings tears to your eyes just looking at the colossal import of his intentions.

The movie has another beaming superstar Chintan played by Tirth Sharma, the once annoying brat who turns into a pleasant company. He insists on following the cliched adage:

Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.

The lad literally epitomizes the phrase through a fun catchy song as he witnesses the sweet nothings of his love. With an ease that’s hard to brace, he makes an inevitable break up, a fun final jovial joyride. While I know a generation that still scorns at scholastic love, I am so proud of the moviemakers who boldly defy them by showing such a cute exchange. It shatters conventions and opens eyes.

Direction of Secret Superstar

While budding directors choose to experiment with their frames and choose intense angles to mesmerize you, Advait Chandan chooses to stay with the basics. There is nothing subtle about him, as he picks areas that fail to tingle you.

His evident simplicity, or call it failure to incorporate visual stunners, end up staying under the wraps, owing to the excellent storyline of Secret Superstar. People fail to notice the contrivance in his frames, and cliched angles owing to the sheer fact that they become too busy “feeling” for the characters in the movie.

still of Zaira Wasim as Insia in Secret Superstar

The way the emotional angle comes into play right from the very first frame lets you get into the story immediately. Peerless performances by the cast elevate all the shortcomings that might have bothered some as the movie commences. Things sediment soon enough and then you are no longer worried about how theatricalized everything looks and feels.

Editing is a tad questionable too, since the movie ends up running for a whopping 2 hours 30 minutes. The fact that it doesn’t bother you is all thanks to its exceptional plot and that there is something poignant in every frame. You are too busy brooding and feeling that you overlook the minutiae that makes a film.

The Final Verdict

Secret Superstar insists on hope. That not everything is lost even when you give up. There are people who you influence too and they matter. If they take a stand, at the end of the day, something wondrous might happen.

The movie is sure to leave you in tears. I cried throughout the movie for the very fact that it connected so much on a personal level. There are tons of scenes that you can’t escape empathizing and when you do you become a sob story yourself.

The struggle is real. I know because I have my very own Youtube Channel “The Hidden Pea“. I could even feel the pain in the eyes of Insia when she was rooting for likes and comments. It was hard not to be on the same page even with her insane elation when the response became massive. It was like the universe was helping her out paving ways to hammer those dreams into fruition. Something that we should take from it and pursue our dreams.

At the end of it all, you can’t help but think about all those people who stop you from pursuing what you aspire to be, and layer you with their own ideas. To them I am just gonna say:

I am not your life. Don’t try to live me.

You can check out the trailer of Secret Superstar here:

Dangal Movie Review (2016) | Celebrating the Rigorous Phogats

The Phogat family finally gets the limelight they deserve. If it weren’t for Dangal movie, one of Nitesh Tiwari‘s best works hitherto, more than half of the country wouldn’t even realize a feat so colossal had happened once in their backyard.

It goes without saying, we barely care for things that aren’t there for big screen viewing. How much we weigh a feat depends on the who, the what, and the how of its portrayal. In a way things were already headed to awesome-ville the moment we saw Aamir Khan sizing this huge project with his thoughtful eyes. The bar was still in the hands of Nitesh though. Unfortunately he couldn’t really raise it to the extent we had expected it to reach in the climactic half of the movie.

Overlook that, and you still have a brilliantly directed flick in your hand. Right from the point where painstaking detailing has been put in its wrestling bouts to the point where personal ego is allowed to rip relationships apart, Dangal doesn’t disappoint.

Aamir Khan’s Dangal

It wouldn’t be wrong to say Dangal is entirely Amir Khan’s movie. We are already aware of how seriously he takes his projects. Heights he scaled for Dangal movie in order to crack perfection once again was quite evident from his “fat to fit” video. He got under the skin of Mahavir Singh Phogat and literally became him. That puckering of his eyes and that frown over his brow tell you he was living the constant turmoil the protagonist had once faced. He makes melodrama more interesting to watch. It is hard not to empathize with him whenever he delivers a crushing line. Then it wasn’t just him who was taking his role seriously, but the rest of the cast too.

still of Aamir Khan's transformation fat to fit in Dangal movie

Moving on to the flick’s deuteragonist, Geeta Phogat, is the one who is chosen to take the movie forward. As some might already know, Geeta was India’s first gold medallist in Wrestling at Commonwealth Games. Dangal movie is basically centered around her childhood, her ego clashes with her father, and then the onward journey to earn that elusive gold. It also serves as an inspiration for women all across India.

The Childhood Phase

Phogat kids had it rough. Geeta’s childhood portrayal was superbly aced by Zaira Wasim. It was complemented brilliantly by Suhani Bhatnagar, who plays young Babita Kumari. Zaira is a very talented artist who makes her presence felt every time she comes on-screen to deliver.

The ‘Hanikarak Bapu’ song beautifully captures the monstrosity levied upon by every Indian child by a strict parent in reticent words. Children’s innate knack to shudder the moment they hear their father roar was strangely relatable. Indian parenting is still as arrogant as the movie projects. It is in fact a way of living, which even though is gradually waning today, is still extant in less developed areas. People choose to believe in those obstinate chores to instill in their child a wont, hoping parents are actually doing the child a huge favour. Thus follows the Dangal theme trying to show the biopic as is.

A child is every reflection of their parent’s. It’s their hammering that gives a child’s life a perspective. In an attempt to prep them up to align them towards a purpose, Mahavir lays down questionable iniquities on the Phogat sisters. But in the end, they deliver. It is what the world remembers them by.

How many Phogats gave up trying to pursue a dream or a vision they couldn’t see all the way through? Or worse, ended up rebelling against cruelty and losing the image, the fate that was meant for them in the first place? There’s a reason the name of the Phogats will resound in eternity. It is all because of a constant painful struggle to reach an elusive goal, and a focused path manifested by a strict visionary topped with a rigorous lifestyle that helped in turning dreams into reality.

The Primal Aspirational Argument

There are two faces to a coin. It is aptly justified when a broken Mahavir visits his children at night to ease their pain. It crushes him too being that strict, but he believes to achieve bigger things in life sacrifices are inevitable. He puts:

I can’t be a father when I am being a mentor.

If you are thinking why one should be enforcing one’s thoughts and aspirations onto a child, you have to understand it is a child that can be manipulated. You can’t impose your thoughts on a grown up. Try to reason with a grown up and it will end up in a fuming debate. If there’s a direction you see, you can only tell someone with a clean slate to follow it, and not a person that questions you back.

still of Zaira Wasim as Geeta Phogat in Dangal movie

To a child who has yet to figure out a dream, it is a perfect phase to show him/her a path. If you prepare them upfront, they will come to understand one day why one’s doing what one’s doing and what needs to be done.

You put that in my head. It’s all I see.

That leaves us with two ways to look at it – What Mahavir did was absolutely unjust, trying to surmount your dreams on your children’s delicate shoulders, smothering their own dreams, making yours their own. Or you could look at it as what Mahavir achieved by pushing his children was exactly the kind of fame his kids expected from life. Isn’t that the job of every mentor? All great sportspersons who excelled at something had their coaches moulding them constantly at every juncture. If there was no Mahavir or his big dreams, we would have never heard about the Phogats at all. That’s where the former argument goes invalid.

Extraordinary Family Drama of Dangal Movie (Spoilers Ahead)

Whilst trying to justify Dangal’s heartwarming drama, we get to see some of the most havocking bits, all coiled up after Geeta and Babita grow up. There is this moment of egoistic clash between Mahavir and Geeta that will tear you apart. It is very engaging and makes you very emotional. It is the apt music placement that tingles the right chords causing you to have your blood-curdling moment.

You can order Dangal movie from here:

Also, when Geeta keeps losing, realizing her mistake, is contacted by Babita. She suggests her to talk with her father to ask for forgiveness. That’s another dramatic moment right there! It would again have you crying along with the protagonist. It’s quite nerve-racking in a way. You can’t help but empathize with them, and that’s why the tears end up becoming real.

Downsides and Flaws

Whilst Dangal is a great movie it isn’t entirely devoid of flaws either. After a dashing better part of the flick where all the melodrama lurks, when you realize you are about to reach the movie’s climax, things begin to kind of fall apart. Suddenly Geeta Phogat loses her awesome comportment; she becomes strangely submissive.

We find a coach who is shown in an ugly limelight. His character is made so wicked that it is hard to take him seriously. It is not good for the plight of Indian sports. People are so emotional that they are going to believe such elements exist in our country, and might blame a coach for someone’s poor performance. It is a fictitious character created from thin air, named Pramod Kadam played by Girish Kulkarni, since we can’t really do without a villain in our stories. Also, maybe we need all the hate to go somewhere I surmise.

Nitesh loses his touch when he makes sports a laughable affair. He shows international players in a negative spotlight, as if there’s no extant spirit of sports in people from foreign land. I doubt if the Australian actually made a smug statement of destroying Geeta Phogat. It was a villainous image she was framed into.

Climax of Dangal Movie

Nitesh Tiwari also changes some facts to make the final look like a nail-biting affair, which was okay actually. But when he decides to emote the whole climax by locking Mahavir away, you can’t help but shake your head. It’s as if he ran out of story, and was desperately looking for that modicum of a culminating point to satiate a patriotic crowd. That appears immensely contrived and artificial. Ending is written in a light so as to extract uncalled for nationalism from a parallel running anthem. Nothing subtle about it! It looked really daft!

Sakshi Tanwar ends up getting sidelined way too much for her one big on screen role. There is so much talent in her that never really came to fruition in the movie. Also, the screenplay of the movie is average and doesn’t carry that glint of subtlety to it. It becomes really disturbing at times when you are forced to listen to the weird juxtaposition of “Attack!” and “Defend!” shouts that break in during an intense match. You can’t help but wonder if that is the way international matches are really shredded.

The Final Verdict

If you really look at it, Mahavir Singh Phogat was the person who did things differently. He took the world by surprise by not following the normal ways of the living. He was bold enough to fight societal barriers, was prepared for any kind of backlash that emanated therefrom, and ready to take the world head-on. His resilience is profoundly riveting even though he seems to be layering his dream on his children.

The prime motive of biopics is to celebrate people. It’s sad, in India, it can’t be done without spicing things up. So much that we drift away from the original course. Dangal movie was no different when it ran out of stories to tell. It’s awe-inspiring energy goes missing in the later ending part. But when you take all the artificiality and the cheesiness out of the equation, you realize the movie is actually a byproduct of some really fine and intense diligence. All of it was possible because of a combined effort put in by its actors and the rest of the crew, not to forget its astounding outstanding melodrama.

Check out our other reviews of Indian Movies as well.

You can check out the trailer of Dangal movie here: