Secret Superstar has been almost universally swiped right by the critics. And it looks like Aamir Khan has cracked the formula of making films that make the audience laugh, smile, cry and think, all within the time frame of 150 minutes.
Over the last few years, Khan has consistently made films about social issues, be it dyslexia and our education system in Taare Zameen Par and 3 Idiots or blind faith in PK, or the more recent, Dangal, that’s a clarion call for putting an end to female infanticide and prejudice against women in the country.
And his new release, Secret Superstar is no different. Aamir Khan may be a supporting role, but as the experts say, ‘it isn’t the screen time but the impact of the character that makes all the difference.’ While the film rides on an honest and heart wrenching performance by the entire cast comprising Zaira Wasim, Meher Vij, Raj Arjun and Tirth Sharma, it highlights several social problems that exist in our society and the Hindi film industry.
The basic premise of Secret Superstar is how a girl from a conservative Muslim family in Baroda, becomes an internet singing sensation. Writer/director, Advait Chandan, however, isn’t just looking to tell a story about small-town dreams but also shines a spotlight over domestic violence, divorce in a society like ours, the warped functioning of the music industry in India and a lot more.
Domestic Violence is About Power
Five minutes into the film, and you’ll already start hating the oppressive dad – Farook Malik – played by Raj Arjun. The glaring reality of domestic violence has been presented without even a hint of excusing the character’s behaviour. As the film progresses, the conflict gets stronger wherein Insiya (Zaira Wasim), insists that her mother, Najma (Meher Vij) leave her father and start a fresh life.
How often do we see a 16-year-old daughter, asking her mother to leave her father because she is being abused for no reason?
The Aftermath of Domestic Abuse
The film subtly highlights the thought process of Najma, a victim of domestic abuse and violence. It lays bare the psychological aftermath of incessant violence and gaslighting which leads her to justify her husband. The journey from that, to finally taking a stand for herself – has been (thankfully) highlighted in the film.
The Stigma of Divorce
It does not matter how much we progress when our beliefs are still orthodox, bred and raised in the rituals of patriarchy. The character of Shakti Kumar (Aamir Khan), is a divorcee. When her friend asks Zaira, a budding singer, why she doesn’t meet music magnate Shakti to get a break into the industry, she cites his divorce as an excuse. The inference being – bad people cannot make their marriage work. And for a person from a small-town, middle-class or lower-middle-class family, there is apparently nothing worse than the status of a bad former spouse.
The State of the Music Industry
The film also talks about the current (and rather obsessive) trend of remixing old songs instead of creating new melodies. Through the film’s central characters, the director is clearly attempting to display his own angst against the stale music industry. Which we hope that for all of our sakes gets through to at least some of the music directors.
For a mainstream actor like Aamir Khan to take up such a socially relevant film in a world that is increasingly oscillating between regressive and progressive – is indeed commendable. Like Mr Perfectionist mentioned in his interview, Secret Superstar is indeed a far bigger film than Dangal’, and here’s hoping that the film goes on to leave an impact that is far beyond the reach of any Box Office report.
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