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A slice of life – if any film can be called that, it is Hindi Medium.
I don’t need to give a detailed story here; it’s already been a week since the film was released and the trailers have given us a fair idea of the storyline already. It is a common enough story of a middle class couple with ambition and aspiration of a good education and better quality of life for their child. And the limits that they can go to, or cross, to achieve this, which begins with securing admission in one of the best private schools in town, because of course “government schools in our country, as we all know, are not the best places to get a decent education.”
The film is a telling critique of the class system in our country. A country where probably the economic disparity between classes is the highest. And hence of course also the sense of entitlement and class that comes with it. It is not just enough to have loads of money – it is also necessary to project oneself as having a certain class – a wealthy shopkeeper cannot be called a “businessman”, because a shopkeeper, no matter how wealthy, is not an “educated” person and does not fit into the “educated and moneyed classy” parameters. Fluent English, foreign trips, western sensibilities are what impart class; and spontaneity, “desi” tastes and “straight from the heart emotions” are qualities of the poor. Acknowledged, but not appreciated, because they are so “down-market”. Full marks to the director for being totally spot-on for capturing this ethos of our country! The couple tries the very rich, the middle class and the poor way of securing this coveted admission, only to realise that the best education is a good value system and to learn that one does not need to go to an exclusive, coveted private school.
Like I said, I am going to leave out the detailed storyline. The finer nuances are what appealed to me more. Those who are familiar with Delhi will very well identify with the Chandani Chowk, the Vasant Vihar and the Bharatnagar references. For those unfamiliar, the middle class, well to do shopkeepers, the English speaking, brand-conscious “classy” businessmen and the lower class worker are the representative parallels. The couple tries to blend into all three types to secure the coveted admission and in the process learns valuable lessons about all kinds of people. Learns that wealth does not necessarily mean class, that poor people are often the ones with the most capability to love and an infallible integrity, and that humanity is most often displayed by people who have less, but practise the “less is more” and “sharing is caring” concepts in the truest sense!
Irfan Khan and Sabah Qamar as the husband and wife are as natural as can be. Thankfully the actress’s nationality did not come in the way of the movie getting released (I don’t know how, but I am so glad), because she is a complete natural in the role! Not that an Indian actress couldn’t have done it, I can think of a few, but art without borders just opens up so many possibilities! And Irfan Khan is a gem that Indian cinema should treasure and nurture! He is one of those few actors who can have roles written especially for them and carry them off on their own steam! Salute, Mr. Khan!!
The most realistic part of the film is the end – not because of the decision that the couple finally takes, but the treatment of the issue before that. The point where people see the point which Irfan Khan makes, but refuse to support him, because who will risk their child’s coveted admission being cancelled if they support an honest but “bitter” experiment? A very, very realistic portrayal of a practical approach that most of us would adopt! Because though it is true and right, it is uncomfortable and impractical to support, no matter how true it might be. Raises and leaves a huge question mark, for sure, on our approach to life!
Must watch, folks! I wonder how many of us would have the courage to actually take a decision like this couple, should the situation actually arise, but it surely starts a process of introspection, which is at least a beginning towards a change in the “rat race” mentality which all of us can’t seem to shake off!
Rating: Story and direction – 4.5/5; Acting – 5/5.