Watercolor Painting by Samir Mondal
My mother is an artist. My father is an engineer. When I explained that to a friend, she responded "That explains everything."
I'm not sure what she meant, but maybe it has to do with the idea of looking at life differently.
That is the theme of the movie Taare Zameen Par, but it arrives at this conclusion through quite a different means. It comes through the experiences of a nine-year-old boy who is struggling with undiagnosed dyslexia.
As the movie points out, dyslexia isn't that uncommon or debilitating - as long as it is recognized and addressed. And many who have dyslexia benefit the rest of us by seeing the world in a different way - people such as Albert Einstein, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Edison, Neil Diamond, and Bollywood's Abhishek Bachchan.
But untreated, dyslexia can cause great frustration. The Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity explains:
Eight-year-old Evan is one of the brightest children in his third-grade class. He has a wonderful vocabulary and knows everything there is to know about baseball—he can even tell you who played in each of the last ten World Series games and who won.
But when it comes to reading about baseball—or anything else—Evan has a lot of trouble. It takes him a long time to read each word, and even longer to read whole sentences. He often has to guess at how you say a word—and sometimes his guess is wrong. Reading out loud is especially stressful and embarrassing. His teacher recently told Evan’s parents that she thinks he might have dyslexia.
No one is born knowing how to read—we all have to learn how. When you read, your brain has to do a lot of things at once. It has to connect letters with sounds and put those sounds together in the right order.
When you have dyslexia, though, your brain takes longer to make some of these connections, and does it in more steps. It especially has trouble matching the letters you see on the page with the sounds those letters and combinations of letters make. And when you have trouble with that step, it makes all the other steps harder.
The film Taare Zameen Par portrays the experience of Ishaan Nandkishore Awasthi (Darsheel Safary), a nine-year-old living with undiagnosed dyslexia, and brings to life an interpretation of the world around him - his personal challenges, his reactions to seemingly unsurmountable obstacles, and the struggles of those around him to deal with how he functions in this different world. It isn't until the new art teacher, Ram Shankar Nikumbh (Aamir Khan), arrives at Ishwaan's school, sees this child in distress, and diagnoses the problem.
The story sidetracks a bit to highlight struggles other children face and how they can overcome these struggles through love. At one point we see the Nikumbh working with children at Bandra's Tulip School, a school for children with special needs. His interaction with the children, even on a simple level, reminds us that all children benefit from the time we spend to love and care for them.
This is played out against the backdrop of the family life of Ishaan whose parents have only seen Ishaan as a child who is "lazy", "mischievous", and a "duffer."At one point, Ishaan's father Nandkishore Awasthi - now aware that his son has dylexia - visits Nikumbh:
Awasthi: My wife has been surfing the internet. She has read up all about Dyslexia. I had to tell you that.
Nikumbh: Why me?
Awasthi: So, you'd not take us for parents who don't care, just so.
Nikumbh: Care is all it takes, Mr. Awasthi. Care has the power to cure. It is the salve for pain. The child feels good to know that someone cares for him. A hug now, a kiss then, just to show "I care for you. Son, I love you. If you have any problems, come to me. So what if you failed, I'm here for you." That reassurance. Caring. This is what caring is. Isn't it, Mr. Awasthi? I'm happy to hear that you think you care.
These are tough words for Awasthi to hear for he realizes that caring not just a noun, it is an verb comprised of a series of little acts over time. Awasthi is forced to take a new look at his life.
In lead-up to the climatic scene of the movie, the whole school - including teachers - gathers for an art contest which is judged by the famous Indian painter, Lalita Lajmi. The song Kholo Kholo (sung by Raman Mahadevan) plays as we watch the artistic styles of our different artists come through - reminding us that in many ways, we all look at life differently.
If you liked this, check out some of our other Aamir Khan posts.