“Secret Superstar” is an Indian film released on 19th Oct 2017 starring Aamir Khan, Zaira Wasim, Meher Vij, Raj Arjun and Tirth Sharma in lead roles along with child actor Kabir Saquid. The film is produced by Aamir Khan & Kiran Rao and is written & directed by Advait Chandan.
The film is the story of a Muslim girl from Vadodara (Gujarat) named Insiya (played by Zaira Wasim) who lives in a very orthodox family with traditional values with her father Farookh (played by Raj Arjun), her mother Najma (played by Meher Vij), her younger brother (played by child actor Kabir Saquid) and her grandmother played by Farrukh Jabber. Inspite of a strict father and traditional atmosphere at home, Insiya is a dreamer. She dreams to become a singer one day and wants everyone to recognize her for her voice.
Shakti Kumaar (played by Aamir Khan) is a music director facing a rough patch in his personal and professional life. His wife has left him and wants divorce from him while he has been banned by the Singer Association owing to temper issues.
Insiya constantly asks her mother to move out of the abusive marriage she was in, but Najma was reluctant as she did not have anything for her financial wherewithal. Her parents had not considered it necessary to educate her and she was the responsibility of her husband Farookh who toils day in and day out (working almost 17 hours) to make ends meet, especially bear the expenses of the children’s education.
Unnerved by all this, Insiya releases her video of singing on YouTube in a burqah to hide her identity and names her YouTube channel as “Secret Superstar”. The video is a rage overnight and soon, the media is looking for the identity of this Secret Superstar.
Circumstances cross the roads of Insiya in Vadodara and Shakti Kumaar in Mumbai who gives Insiya her first break of singing a song for one of his films. And Insiya’s close friend Chintan has a big role to play in the meeting of Insiya and Shakti. What remains to be seen is how Insiya breaks free from her current life to enter a life and if she succeeds in doing that.
So, here we have one more film of a dreamer. As if we didn’t have enough. It is good to boost people by making a film about the struggles and journey of a dreamer that can serve as inspiration. But filmmakers often forget that dreams come with a price to be paid by reality and that price is not paid by either the dream or the dreamer. It is paid by many silent and unsung heroes in the story who are conveniently forgotten because the theme of the story is the focus on the dreamer.
Another thought which has captured since I saw the film is, that of a confused storyteller. Advait is just not sure which story he wants to tell – the story of the importance of following your dreams or the story of domestic violence and female feticide? Because the film is more focused on showing a domestically violent household rather than how Insiya developed the talent and how she managed to learn and play guitar for 10 years with a so-called monstrous father at home.
And how does the family run? How are the everyday needs of food, shelter and other necessities of life taken care of? Or the story teller just assumed that it has to be the role of a man who has to toil his life out to feed his family. Well it looks like the film assumes the same.
Funny that the irony captured in the film is reflected in a scene where Insiya (consumed by her music) cannot spell the word “irony” in class when her teacher shakes her back to reality as she was dreaming in class. So, what exactly is the irony?
Well, the irony is something like this – Not all men are bad, but all women are victims. So, while, Najma, a victim of domestic violence at the hands of her husband, is portrayed as epitome of sacrifices of womanhood, the silent effort and sacrifices made by Chintan (Insiya’s close friend) and Shakti Kumaar go not only unnoticed but are taken for granted, because they are men. They are supposed to be good.
Yet another irony is, Shakti Kumaar is a bad man because his wife left him, while Farookh is a bad man because his wife doesn’t want to leave him. So, where’s the identity of a man here? And yet, this apparently bad man called Shakti Kumaar goes out of his way, spends his own money to give a break to Insiya and if that was all to it, he also begs in front of his wife’s lawyer so that Insiya can initiate a divorce between her parents.
So, I felt, watching the movie, that the film epitomizes irony more than domestic violence or a struggle of a dreamer.
The direction lacks consistency. The sibling relation between Insiya and her brother Guddu is inconsistent. Najma is uneducated, can’t read but pronounces words of English with utmost clarity. Insiya can operate laptop like a pro though she has never seen one in life. For a marriage that happened in Vadodara, the divorce is filed in Mumbai. I mean, show at least something real.
There are many gaps in the story and the screenplay and the director is confused as to what does he really want to show.
My 2 cents, do not waste your Diwali with a gloomy movie like this. Instead, go out and have fun with friends and family.
This review has been contributed by our Guest reviewer