A delightful hiccup

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 24 Mar 2018 09:56:34




By Farina Salim Quraishi

Belief can move mountains and everything else in the way is but a hiccup; powered by this thought Rani Mukerji’s Hichki is not a sorry, weepy saga about suffering, but rather is a spirited take on a drawback becoming a strength. Dealing with Tourette Syndrome - a neurological disorder causing involuntary tics and sounds - Hichki delightfully hiccups its way into our hearts and head, staying strong with a lot of sass and sensitivity. An adaptation of Hollywood film, Front Of The Class, which again was based on Brad Cohen’s eponymous bestseller, Hichki draws lessons from life and makes a good pitch for acceptance and inclusion. Despite strong shades of a Utopian universe, Hichki is a welcome world of hope and optimism, celebrating the power of self-belief.

The movie starts off with a nervous Naina Mathur (Rani) waiting for an interview call in a school. Naina, battling Tourette Syndrome since a very young age, has made peace with her condition. At ease with her tics and hics, Naina is hardly bothered by the shock and sneers taking them in her stride to fulfil her lifelong dream to be a teacher. Raising above her ‘speech disorder, not an intellectual one’ - as she terms it - Naina is determined in her aim, hundreds of rejections by 18 schools no bar.

Finally, Naina is given a chance to teach by St Notker’s Convent, a school founded by a saint who stammered. Naina grabs the opportunity with both hands, unmindful of the veiled warning given out the Principal about her students. The batch of 14 students admitted under RTE in St Notker’s is a rebellious lot, with the sole aim of making their teachers’ lives hell. Does Naina succeed in the schooling the troublesome teens or do the students teach Naina a lesson is what Hichki all about. One thing that stands out strongly throughout the film is the absence of the ‘poor little woman’ spirit. Naina is a fighter with no room for self-pity and the film reflects the same proudly. Despite the movie being about a medical disorder, it never plays the victim card, but rather trumps all odds with its smile and spunk intact, throughout.

Hichki is not about Tourette’s Syndrome alone, it is packed with life-affirming lessons, tackling issues like acceptance and discrimination among others. There are no narrative manipulations to evoke tears or sympathy, rather there are only insightful takes about the impact of the defect. There are several touching moments about teacher-student relationship, that will surely make one nostalgic, even as the unorthodox methods of teaching evoke wishful thinking. Also, the competition between teachers and students is realistic and ‘prefect’! However though the students are superb and their teacher even more so, the bond between the students and teacher is not of the unbreakable kind. It’s not an organic one that Aamir Khan’s Nikumbh shared with Ishaan Awasthi in Taare Zameen Par. The connect is sorely amiss here leaving you unaffected by the trials and triumphs of the students.

Also, a few things are blatantly contrived. Since the kids are from slums, they are shown to be shabbily dressed, uninterested in studies and forever ogling rich girls! The film could have done well without this and other cliches. Even with a short running time of 118 minutes, the movie drags at several points due to the absence of any sub-plots. The film unilaterally focuses on Naina and her class, to the exclusion of everything, right down to the rowdy students studying in it. Showing very little in terms of their lives, the teens are simply shown as troublemakers which makes them superficial rather than compelling.  The movie is painfully predictable, with the twists and turns lacking teeth. The first half is mostly about Naina winning the trust of the students, while the second half conveniently showcases the victory of the underdogs; hardly the stuff of surprises.

Rani is flawless as Naina Mathur. Playing the speech-impaired teacher with a fair amount of chutzpah and spirit, Rani rocks in the tailor-made role. Naina’s physical drawbacks are well-etched and are not in the least exploited for teary points. As Rani ‘chaks - chaks’ away poignantly she makes a fine point of how a relatively simply act - of talking – can be a colossal challenge for a special person. The consistent way Naina’s character makes sounds like ‘chak chak’ and ‘waak waak’ deserves a special mention. Even in the most intense moment of the film, she doesn’t miss a tic, literally here!

Real life couple Supriya and Sachin Pilgaonkar play Naina’s reel life parents to a disappointing effect. The talented actors are wasted in badly written roles. Hussain Dalal shines in his brief part as Naina’s brother. The young talents in the film are impressive, especially Harsh Mayar as Aatish. While Neeraj Kaabi as the rival teacher is a caricature of a snob. As hiccups go, Hichcki has its share, but given that fact that it’s an engaging tale crammed with lessons of life delivered enchantingly by Rani Mukherjee, it definitely wouldn’t hurt to attend this class.

The Hitavada Rating:

O O 1/2