Hindi Medium: Irrfan Khan's Exceptional Performance Makes For a Riveting Watching
Image: A YouTube grab
Cast: Irrfan Khan, Saba Qamar, Deepak Dobriyal
Director: Saket Choudhary
Humne bhi socha humari bachchi Angrezi school mei padh likh legi toh hi-fi ho jayegi. Humne uske school ke admission ke liye sab kuch kiya.
This dialogue from Hindi Medium remains crucial for multiple reasons. For, it not only explains the film’s plot, but also creates character development and helps the viewers to forge a bond with the film’s key character – Raj Batra (Irrfan Khan). Not just that, it also encapsulates genuine fears that range from concerns about kids’ education to their future as far as their career goes – issues that keep majority of the parents up at night.
Director Saket Choudhary’s Hindi Medium not just talks about the desperate attempts of parents to help their kids seek quality education, but it also explains the viewers the dual system – one meant for the well-heeled and other for the poor - that exists in India. It also describes how at one end of the spectrum, people have well-equipped schools while on the other only buildings lacking basic facilities – an inequality that clearly divides India (the former) from Bharat (the latter).
Hindi Medium opens on a romantic note - Raj (a tailor by profession) who falls for Mita (Saba Qamar). Years later, in his bid to become “ek accha husband”, Raj fulfill Mita's only wish - to get their only daughter Pia admitted to a prestigious English medium school. This involves shifting from the chaotic lanes of Old Delhi’s Chandni Chowk to Vasant Vihar - the posh neighbourhood of New Delhi. It also involves the couple’s efforts to be a part of the elite society – the exclusive group that doesn’t look beyond five-star hospitality. Normal clothes are replaced by outlandish outfits. And old habits give way to forced elite mannerisms.
Soon, the director focuses on the fierce competition amongst families to gain admission to prestigious private English medium schools.
Sequences of parents queuing up in the lines for school admission in the wee hours to the Batras spending enormous amounts of time and money training themselves and their preschool-aged daughter for English language interviews – explain India’s obsession with English.
Choudhary, who has Pyaar Ke Side Effects and Shaadi Ke Side Effects to his credit, is quite convincing in tracing Batras’ journey of getting Pia admitted to an elite school — the symbol of upward mobility for the Indian middle class — in the first half. He makes an equally indelible impact by showing how the family decides to opt for poor quota to fulfil their only dream.
Choudhary’s English language divide works more like a caste divide. For, it plays an instrumental role in determining which friends the kids would have, what schools they will study at, where they will holiday, and of course which MNC they would work at.
Much of the film’s flavor comes from the right casting of Irrfan, Saba. The two have a chemistry that comes from the comfort level they enjoy. Watching them fight, interact, argue and express love adds so much more to their characters. Fortunately, the film’s script – by Zeenat Lakhani and Saket - gives the two incredible actors plenty to prove their mettle. Laxman Utekar's cinematography also works for the film.
Irrfan uses humor to make some serious points. His meetings with a politician, and a middlemen - who takes cash to ensure school admission - leave the viewers in splits about the absurdity of reality. Judging by the films that he has done so far, Irrfan is unbeatable at being versatile.
Saba, who makes her debut with Hindi Medium, gives a performance which will make the viewers feel that she has been starring in Bollywood films for many years.
Deepak Dobriyal’s character Shyam Prakash is as real as it gets. Be it his interpretation of poverty as almost a slum dweller, or his aspirations for his only son or the unconditional concern for Raj – he is too good. And Choudhary crafts some really humorous and emotional moments for him.
The little nuances that each character – played by Irrfan, Saba and Deepak - brings to the table and character detailing make the film a must watch.
While the film is compelling in showing that India’s enormous push for English is often interpreted as an instant solution to all problems – including academic achievement, better employment opportunities and economic success, it isn’t just an accusation on Indian education system. It raises several concerns, but misses it just when it is required the most. Despite its flaws, the film is still relevant and successfully touches upon a relevant issue.
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