Films on the relationship between student and teacher/mentor aren’t a new concept. We’ve seen such films a couple of times before. Aamir Khan’s Taare Zameen Par and Secret Superstar are the two best examples that come to my mind. So why does Rani Mukerji’s Hichki stand out? Perhaps because of her own self.
Director Sidharth P Malhotra and his team of writers establish two goals with this film. Firstly, the film talks about the shortcomings in the Indian Education System and secondly it lifts those with disabilities. Mukerji’s Naina Mathur suffers from Tourette Syndrome, which makes her tick almost every minute in the film, becoming her ‘hichki’. She makes a sound, ‘Cha-Cha’ and very intelligently enough, it is not followed by coughing or the clearing of the throat but rather by her, rubbing her wrist against her chin, accompanied by a ‘Va-Va’ sound. It seems like she’s praising herself. This, I applaud. The rest of the film is a battle between talking about how our country looks at disabled people, and how we look at those who do not come from a place of privilege.
Apart from Rani Mukerji’s Naina, the other characters are mere caricatures, without layers. Neeraj Kabi’s Wadia, Supriya Pilgaonkar’s Sudha, Sachin Pilgaonkar as Naina’s father are all stereotyped characters who not only have less to do, but they do not bring anything to the table in terms of narrative.
But this apart, the film is a winner.
Rani Mukerji is one of my favourite actors ever and with Hichki she rules. Naina is strong-willed. Every time she tics, you see Mukerji using the power of her eyes to show that we do not need to feel any amount of sympathy for Naina. We need to treat her as an equal, and we need to do the same with every disabled person. Mukerji is in the frame for almost the entire film but not for a second do you see her. She allows Naina to come to her that naturally.
But that is who Rani Mukerji is. She is, undoubtedly, the most natural actor of her times and we haven’t seen an actor as natural after her.
She plays Naina as if she is Naina. You may have a bias between Preity Zinta’s Naina from Kal Ho Na Ho and Deepika Padukone’s from Yeh Jawani Hai Deewani and can pick one but now, the choice just became harder.
Even though the film is not as emotional and as moving as Aamir Khan’s Taare Zameen Par, there were moments that left me teary-eyed. There is a moment when Naina is about to give-up teaching this 9F class, comprising of 14 ‘failures’ when her students call her their Polar Star, one that guides them when they don’t know where to go. This, and more such moments might just break you.
All in all, Hichki is a Rani Mukerji film – it is as natural and real as she is. The only difference between the film and Mukerji is that the former is a little flawed while the latter reigns supreme…