'Hichki': An emotionally inspiring film (Review by Troy Ribeiro,
Adapted from a 2008 released English film, "Front of the Class", which is based on Brad Cohen's book "Front of the Class: How Tourette Syndrome Made Me the Teacher I Never Had", director Sidharth P. Malhotra's "Hichki" is a feel good, emotionally packed and inspirational film.
It is the touching story of Naina Mathur, a young girl who would not let Tourette Syndrome keep her from doing what she loved most; teaching. Despite her speech defect, she sets out to become a teacher.
Tourette syndrome is a neuropsychiatric disorder which sets off multiple motor tics which include compulsive throat-clearing, knee knocking, violent muscle twitches and piercing barks. These tics are beyond one's control. While the exact cause that sets off these tics is not known, it is believed to involve a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
Rani Mukerji as the plucky Naina Mathur is flawless. She portrays her character with sincerity.
"I can't see you as a teacher," one blunt administrator tells her. To which, she replies, "Before meeting me, did you know about Tourette Syndrome? Well, now that you know, I have educated you."
This simply tells you how persevering she is.
The film reveals how as a student she was expelled from twelve schools before finally being accepted whole heartedly at St. Notker's High School. The same school later accepts her as a teacher, mid-term, not because of her brilliant academic credentials but because of a crisis situation. She is hired to teach a class of underprivileged, reluctant misfits. How she wins everyone's hearts, forms the crux of the tale.
Looking back periodically to show Naina as a child, the film is most powerful in some of those flashback sequences.
How as a child, she convinces herself that Tourette Syndrome is her lifelong companion and that could teach her important lessons about human nature. That bit of disassociation which is crucial helps her cope with otherwise difficult situations. This comes through in her strained relationship with her father and also when she tells her school teacher, Mr. Khan, "Treat me like other students."
The film is packed with dramatic moments that are as truthful as they are inspiring. Every scene resonates with sentiments. With apt metaphors and lingo, the writing is simple and straightforward. And while the film intends on communicating life-affirming values, there are moments in the first half that seem forced.
The second half, despite the painstakingly moralistic notes, touches the right chords. You get so immersed with the characters especially Naina. You feel sorry for her when despite her sincere efforts, her class gets suspended, for no fault of theirs.
What elevates the film is the brilliant performances by the supporting cast. You can relate with every character as each one of them is well-etched. The ones that stand out apart from the gang of students are Sachin and Supriya Pilgaonkar as Naina's estranged parents, Ivan Rodrigues as the School Principal, Neeraj Kabi as Naina's colleague at school who is keen to dismiss Naina's students from the school and of course the character who plays Naina's brother.
The loving relationship between the siblings is well-defined.
With ace production values, the film is well-made. The only sore point is the loud background score that kills the subtlety of the subject.
Overall, "Hichki" remains in your mental space long after you leave the theatre.
Hichki skirts greatness via Rani's performance (Review By Subhash K
Jha ; Rating: ****)
There is a disarming idealism at the heart of this inspirational tale told without frills of fancy. The flights of daring that the protagonist Naina Mathur undertakes never seems irrelevant. On many occasions I found the plot veering towards a sweeping sentimentality that, given other circumstances, would be considered manipulative.
Hichki dives deep into the collective consciousness of a nation inured in prejudices and comes up with some well-served lessons on humanism tolerance and generosity. It may not be India's To Sir With Love. But by Jove, Rani Mukerjee in what easily ranks as her career's best performances (yes, better than Black) gives Mr Sidney Pottier a run for his heroic stature.
The plot derives its creative juices from a real-life British teacher who suffered from the Tourette Syndrome, a neurological disorder that causes painful verbal dysfunction in the sufferer. It's astonishing how Rani takes over the sufferer's role without allowing the disease to impede her character's ingrained sunniness of countenance.
When faced with a classroom filled with contumacious students from the slums (played by young actors who frequently act with representational emphasis) Rani's Naina never falters, and never mind her tongue. It's only when she is with her estranged father (Sachin Pilgoankar) that she loses her cool. Rani's Naina' two dining-table sequences with her screen-father are marvels of screenwriting drama, packaged and performed in pitch-perfect harmony. When the father's patronizing sympathy gets too much Rani marches off to the kitchen to make rotis, venting her need to exhale in the kneading.
It is the slum students who needed to be a little less soap operatic. In a film where the message is emblematized in gloriously lucid episodes the ragged bunch of slumkids go too swiftly from rebellious to sweet-natured. Their changeover seems almost pre-ordained.
Not that their abrupt character transformation takes away from the blithe reformatory mood and reined-in vivacity that shoot across the narrative with splendid sincerity. Not a moment in the storytelling is lost in humbug. Every minute counts. And while some of the scenes showing Rani's flourishing bonding with her students is keenly melodramatic the actress sails above the stagnant pools of water that the plot often encounters.
Rani Mukerjee makes her Tourette-informed character unwavering in her upbeatness and yet no giddyheaded breathless optimist. The pain comes gushing out in a sequence where she pounds and pummels her uncontrollable mouth almost as though she were sparring with her destiny.
The astounding Neeraj Kabi as the cynical teacher who thinks slum is synonymous with scum keeps his character grey without getting into grime.
What I liked about Rani's Naina more than her textbook-perfect rapport with her students is her bonding with her mother (Sipriya Pilgaonkar) and brother (Husain Dalal). I wish there was more of them in the film. I wish there were more Naina Mathurs in this world who can teach all of us a thing or two about being human without making humanism a logo on a T-shirt.
Hichki is a work of wondrous lightheartedness. Its absence of cynicism and its touching belief in the power of benevolence and generosity could get a wee overpowering for many of us who face brutal betrayals every day. But isn't life in cinema all about alchemizing the pain and hurt into art? Hichki does that quite often and quite effectively.
Cinematographer Avinash Arun fills the frames with hope and sunshine without killing the spirit of struggle that underlines every step of Naina's journey.
After receiving a standing ovation at the Shanghai International Film Festival (SIFF), Rani Mukerji's 'Hichki' is all set to hit the big screens in Russia on the occasion of Teachers Day.The movie will be dubbed in Russian and will release in the country on September 6.Talking about the same, producer Maneesh Sharma said, "Hichki has touched the hearts of audiences across age-groups, across countries. The film moved audiences at the Shanghai Film Festival where it was screened recently. Now that the film is releasing in Russia, we expect audiences to feel the same emotions that people across the world are feeling after seeing the movie. Read MoreSonam Di Wedding: 'Veere' Swara, Kareena go traditional
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Rani Mukerji returns to acting with HICHKI.
She took everyone by storm as the power packed policewoman in MARDAANI, and then took time off for motherhood. Now, Rani Mukerji will return to do what she loves doing the most. She will star in Yash Raj Films’ HICHKI, to be directed by Siddharth P Malhotra and produced by Maneesh Sharma.
With HICHKI, she will be seen in a positive and inspiring story about a woman who turns her biggest weakness into her biggest strength.
HICHKI will be Maneesh Sharma’s third film as a producer with Yash Raj Films after DUM LAGA KE HAISHA and MERI PYAARI BINDU. Siddharth P Malhotra, who has directed WE ARE FAMILY will be making his first film with Yash Raj Films.