Hindi Medium : Winning combo of performances and writing
Film: Hindi Medium; Director: Saket Chaudhary; Cast: Irrfan Khan, Saba Qamar, Jaspal Sharma, Deepak Dobriyal, Swati Das, Dishita Sehgal, Amrita Singh, Tillotama Shome, Sanjay Suri and Neha Dhupia; Rating: ***1/2
Education is purportedly a ticket for success and in India, one of the criteria for a sought after school is English as the medium of instruction. For many parents, getting admission for their children to the right school with the best of facilities is of paramount importance and a nightmare. The film, Hindi Medium, showcases this issue with the right amount of flair.
Despite being moralistic and loaded with messages, the film isn't boring or preachy. It is in fact a romantic and an immensely entertaining film that decries the importance of speaking English in the dreadfully pretentious Indian society.
Romantic, because the film opens with an apt tone setter of Raj - a tailor by profession falling in love with his muse Mita. He commits that he would ensure that Mita is happy all the time. Years later, how he complies with Mita's latest desire - to get her only daughter Pia admitted to an "elite," English Medium school, forms the crux of the tale.
Part of the genius of Hindi Medium is that it unfolds this relationship at a deliberate pace making education and its admission process just a by-product of the telling.
Irrfan Khan plays the ever-obliging husband with natural ease. He captures Raj Batra's endearingly rustic spirit with such aplomb that you are one with him in his endeavour.
Saba Qamar, the Pakistani actress, makes her role luminous with her brilliant portrayal of the wannabe society lass, Mitu. She has such lightness, grace and natural affinity that she glows and matches Irrfan in histrionics, especially when she tries convincing him that whatever she is doing is somehow for Pia's benefit.
The two actors are aptly supported by Dishita Seghal as their daughter Pia Batra, Tillotama Shome as the education consultant, Amrita Singh as the Principal of Delhi Grammar School, Deepak Dobriyal as their selfless, "poor" neighbour Shyam Prakash, whose son's seat under the RTE act was usurped by the Batras.
Sanjay Suri and Neha Dhupia in a miniscule role as their upscale acquaintances, are wasted.
Apart from the performances, it is the writing by Zeenat Lakhani and Saket Chaudhary that is brilliant. The script is taut and packed with a combination of light and serious notes. Humour is strewn with sarcasm, witty dialogues and awkward moments. The characters are well etched and mounted with utmost realism.
While the film moves at a rapid pace in the first half, the second half dips in momentum but nevertheless is engrossing and keeps you hooked. Unfortunately, it is the climax scene where the children of the underprivileged school sing and dance an inspiring number that seems rushed and unconvincing.
Laxman Utekar's cinematography is simple yet effective. It captures the fine nuances of the locales and emotions to perfection. Sachin-Jigar's music along with Amar Mohile's background score seamlessly mesh in the narrative. The visuals and sound are astutely layered by A. Sreekar Prasad's fine razor sharp editing.
Overall, Hindi Medium with excellent production values and a strong local story, is undoubtedly a great canvas with a strong message.