Cast: Irrfan Khan, Saba Qamar, Deepak Dobriyal, Amrita Singh, Delzad Hiwale, Taran Bajaj, Jaspal Sharma, Swati Das, Tilottama Shome, Vijay Kumar Dogra, Ishita Sehgal
Director: Saket Chaudhary
This film is not aspiring to be an expose on the education system–instead it hopes to open up a discussion on the inequalities being practiced on the basis of language that one speaks. English of course is considered the language of the elite so the nouveau rich are the ones aspiring to challenge the dominance of the elite by branding themselves as ‘English Speaking.’ This film is about one such family.
‘Hindi Medium’ is an adaptation of the Malayalam Movie Salt Mango Tree and also bears a close resemblance to the Bengali movie Ramdhanu. Raj Batra (Irrfan Khan) a fashion store owner from Chandni Chowk, Delhi, his wife Meeta Batra (Saba Qamar) and their little daughter Pia Batra (Ishita Sehgal) live in an urban neighbourhood before they decide to move to the more posh, upmarket Vasant Vihar so that their daughter’s admission to the prestigious schools of their choice won’t get rejected.
But rejected they are, despite having a consultant (Tilottama Shome) training them in the niceties. An attempt to bribe their way through falters so the only option now is to forge ‘economically backward section documents’ and fortify that with a move to the Bharat Nagar slum. But life throws them a curve at every step and the family have to eventually find a way out of a very sticky situation.
While the film is well-meaning it’s not completely plausible nor is it totally logical. But what works for it is the genuineness of the set-up, the attempt to develop a back story that gives the film it’s strength and terrific performances all around.
Raj willingly goes to any extent to please his wife and her impractical demands end up becoming a tightening noose around his neck. For an owner of a readymade store that offers fashion copies, he sure seems to have a lot of money to throw around-which given the nature of his business, is quite bizarre and impractical.
Every time they hit a hurdle, the wife throws out her favourite warning ‘what if their daughter eventually went into drugs?’ and Raj is left with no option but to give in to his wife’s demands. The nagging doubt that plagues you throughout is about how Raj manages to stay away from his business entirely, during the time he was trying to get his daughter a seat.
Of course, the story set-up is entirely contrived yet the point it makes cannot be denied. The system has been plagued by the rich trying to steal away all the advantages meant for the poor. Saket’s direction may not be exemplary but he certainly manages to get the humour working and in the process throws up some challenges.
But not all of them are easily resolved. The shifts from home to home are made a little too easily to be true, the problems faced therein are also just as easily resolved –albeit with the support of a genuinely poor couple Saum Prakash (Deepak Dobriyal) & wife who think nothing of giving up their own necessities to help out their new-found friends.
The writing is sharp but the plotting doesn’t quite match-up. And the concluding act comes across as a little too abrupt. Justifications are measly but performances are luminous. Both Irrfan Khan and Saba Qamar give their roles a strength that shines through in their respective acts.
Amrita Singh as the principal of a prestigious school is appropriately steely and Deepak Dobriyal and the rest of the ensemble performers leave their distinctive impressions with a lot of heart.
The use of RTE and the misuse of its provisions by the rich haves has been highlighted effectively. The processes on show here might not be accurate entirely but they serve the purpose of exposure quite well. There’s a message here that needs to be heard and it’s quite noble minded if you ask me!