We know any typical teacher student film follows a set template, it is usually always about the eventual triumph of the underdog through an unconventional route. So, that Hichki follows the same template and becomes very predictable isn’t a problem for me. What does become a problem though is film-making of extreme convenience and of manipulative emotions, quite unlike the original film Front of the Class that it derives from, one which was far more organic, feel good and moving.
We are told multiple times in the film that Tourette’s is a neurological disorder with no control, but the tics or the hiccups of the protagonist Naina Mathur are rather conveniently orchestrated when needed – neatly at the end of sentences, absent during many heavy dialog exchanges when Naina is shown far more excited and hence should have ideally had a hyper attack, and so on.. and That inconsistent orchestration frankly is too evident to be ignored.
The script also deviates to give us a class of 9th graders instead of 2nd graders as in the original, and them being a bunch of misfits seeking acceptance in various ways, gives the perfect context to bring in manipulative emotions crafted together in a script to please the masses. We see pretty heavy ‘dialogbaazi‘ hammered down from all corners – teenagers, teachers, family; we see a visit to the slums roped in to arouse sympathy; we see baked in cliches in everyday things like the rich kids being all fair & good looking, while the F graders are dark as their lives are; We see single note characters for the most part; And we see an overdose of melodrama consistently.
But in spite of this rather poorly scripted screenplay which also suffers from inconsistent direction, the film does not sink solely because it is pretty well acted by many within the bounds of the limited material they get. The dapper dressing of Neeraj Kabi impresses as much as his yet another flawless portrayal of an elitist teacher wanting to prove his point. All the kids do their best with the roles that were given to them, and scale over the writing flaws and unnecessary drama for the most part. Sachin and Supriya and honestly wasted though and make no mark. In fact the pieces of Naina and her personal struggles with her family are amongst the weakest parts of the film.
But its Rani Mukerji and her very honest performance that really lifts the film beyond all its shortcomings. She looks radiant like a thousand watt bulb, and brings in as much spark and spunk to her performance. She is as gritty as she is vulnerable, and does not miss a beat, whether it was the beautifully acted breakdown scene of hers, or the very warm final scene which honestly is the one that I loved the most for the warmth it spreads and left the theater with a smile on my face. Her well designed wardrobe is not be missed as well – hope the printed fitted parallels and chequered kurtas become a fashion trend soon.
I didn’t expect Hichki to be a classic, and it is not. So don’t expect it to be a Dead Poet’s Society, a Taare Zameen Par, or even a Front of the Class. What it is though is a film that proves out to be better than what the trailer promised because of its earnest performances. Go watch it once for Rani Mukerji and her charisma. She deserves it, and it would not hurt.