Cast: Rani Mukerji, Supriya Pilgoankar, Ivan Rodrigues, Asif Basra, Shivkumar Subramaniam, Harsh Mayar, Kunal Shiinde, Supriyo Bose
Director: Siddharth Malhotra
Rating: * * *
It took four years (After ‘Mardaani’) for Rani to come up with this ‘HICHKI’ in her career and it’s a solid effort – no doubt. Borrowed enigmatically from the 2008 Hallmark movie ‘Front of the Class’ based on the book by Brad Cohen and co-authored by Lisa Wysocky, which was about a male with Tourette’s wanting to be the teacher he never had, this film with Rani playing the teacher, is a feel-good effort that is both sincere and motivating.
Of course, Anckur Chaudhry, Siddharth Malhotra, Ambar Hadap and Ganesh Pandit’s script for ‘Hichki’ incorporates a few changes including gender reversal where the protagonist a female, Naina Mathur (Rani Mukherjee), aspires to be a teacher. After five years of interviews and rejections, she finally lands a job at a Catholic school whose founder St Notker had a speech impediment. But it’s not all easy after that. She is called upon to teach a classroom of incorrigible underprivileged, rebellious teenagers who are not willing to be easily disciplined or coerced into paying attention. So, the feisty Naina has to not only fight her own demons (of the neuropsychiatric variety) but also overcome the hurdles her students and the administration throw-up on their way to being enlightened.
Naina’s teaching methods are unconventional but effective. She is willing to take the blame for all the crazy stunts her students come up with and in the process, she wins their trust and eternal devotion. Rani Mukherjee appears to be in fine fettle here. Her performance is sincere, gracefully effective and strongly convincing. The kids do a fairly decent job too despite the writers adding numbers to their many vices.
The relationship between Naina and her students is not fully developed though. Naina is the only one shown teaching the class and that’s questionable. Students of standard 9th usually have different specialist teachers for different subjects. This is after all supposed to be an elite school. Never mind these minor infractions. Naina’s relationship with her sibling is touchingly real. Some of the characters involved in the film also feel a little stereotyped and forcibly inserted in order to make the going a little more difficult for the protagonist. It doesn’t drum up any extra effect though. Neeraj Kabi as the antagonistic teacher appears to be forcing it. Some of the plot twists and their resolutions appear inorganic to the natural flow of events here. Hichki may not be an original or sterling effort but it’s a stirring one nevertheless!