Taare Zamden Par [Like Stars on Earth] (2007)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Taare Zamden Par</strong> [<strong class="MovieTitle">Like Stars on Earth</strong>] (2007)

(Netflix Streaming, August 2018) I’m in the middle of an Aamir Khan mini-binge these days, and there’s something really interesting in pairing Dangal and Taare Zamden Par so close together—I feel that both of them are representative of a more modern Indian cinema than the acquired notion of Bollywood musicals. Both of them offer a relatively grounded take on Indian society: they don’t feature actresses in flowing robes, musical numbers or simplistic love stories. Both of them tackle social issues, feature most of their music during montages and show Khan willing to take roles that differ a bit from the usual Indian movie archetypes. Taare Zamden Par is specifically about an arts teacher (Khan) helping a dyslexic kid go beyond the social demands for conventional career-driven success. There is an earnestness to the film that may register as naïve by Western standards, but that’s unfair—dyslexia as a topic matter in western societies has been beaten into the ground by countless “special episodes” of TV shows, socialized widely throughout the educational system and fully digested by various social actors including those best placed to help the affected kids. India, as of 2007, still had to catch up to that level (Wikipedia details how the film led to some national policy changes), and it’s in that spirit that Taare Zamden Par becomes endearing in boldly (but vividly) engaging with the same issue for a different social context. The execution matters a lot, and it’s fun to see Khan fully embrace his likable character, becoming a paragon of ebullient charm as an arts teacher mentoring a young protagonist to success. There are a few welcome expressionist sequences that take us in the mind of its imaginative protagonist, adding some more interest to the result. For North American viewers, there isn’t much here that hasn’t been seen elsewhere … but it’s handled well and a compelling view even if it tries audience patience with its 164 minutes running time.

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