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Posted at: May 19, 2017, 6:46 PM; last updated: May 19, 2017, 8:24 PM (IST)MOVIE REVIEW - HINDI MEDIUM

Admission guaranteed

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Admission guaranteed
A still from Hindi Medium

Nonika Singh

“India is English and English is India.” Now, who in India is oblivious to our prime time obsession with Queen’s English, the natural corollary of which is our preoccupation with elitist English medium schools? So, Hindi Medium, as the name alludes, doesn’t really bring anything new to the fore as far as the subject goes. 

Inevitably, it follows the same inbred colonial psyche, the space explored by films such as English Vinglish. Yet, it manages to bring a whole lot to the table that is at once entertaining, engaging and worth pondering over. 

Never mind that you might have already seen some of the best one-liners in the promotional trailer. In the mirthful first part, these neither lose the sting nor humour. In a light-hearted manner with comic punch-lines in place, it takes you straight to Chandni Chowk and it’s very much in love couple.

The husband (Irrfan Khan) is busy selling designer look-alike. The wife (Saba Qamar) is aspirational. No wonder she feels strongly that her daughter has no future if she doesn’t get into the top school of the city.

Well, those with toddlers at home can only empathise with the plight of these parents.  Millions of middle-class parents go through hell to secure a seat for their wards in a decent school. But hello, this couple drives swanky cars, has enough money to facilitate a residential shift to upmarket Vasant Vihar. So, wherein lies the rub?  

Well, rich they might be but in the absence of English speaking skills, they are socially disadvantaged. Hence, these social wannabes employ every trick in the book, do what it takes to score a goal in the admission race. Indeed, in mirroring this (ir)rational quest of theirs, the film does go over the top. But even in those moments of artifice, the actors hold the film like a pillar.

Irrfan Khan is at his superlative best: be it as the businessman trying and tying (pun intended) to charm his customers or as the loving husband ready to go to any length to please his wife or finally the man who has the guts to realise, “if one can’t be a good human being one can’t be good at anything.” 

His etching of Raj Batra endears himself to you completely. Holding him in excellent stead is the Pakistani actress Saba Qamar. We have seen her talent in umpteen Pakistani dramas and she catches the Keeping up with the Joneses syndrome perfectly.

Of course, at some points, her overzealousness does seem a bit misplaced. But just when you think she and the film’s narrative is going all over the place, the director hits the nail on the head and the business of admission is no longer funny. 

Poverty is instantly humanized as in walks the hugely talented actor Deepak Dobriyal.  Interestingly, instead of raising laughs, the adorably funny Pappi of Tanu Weds Manu touches more than an emotional chord as the sensitive poor guy. 

Sure, there is an attempt to romanticise poverty.  However, seen in the context of what goes on earlier in the film, where parents are made to parrot lines such as, “sharing is caring”, and asked inane questions like--how will you introduce your child to poverty--even this bit begins to make sense. 

Yes the Right to Education finds a suitable ally here, but all for good cause and not at the cost of fun either. Of course, if you care to pick holes in a well-meaning film, you might just dismiss it as an audiovisual petition for RTE. But even if you don’t care for the rather relevant subject, watch it for Irrfan Khan who is a sheer delight and lends incredible credibility to even the implausible.        

nonikasingh@tribunemail.com

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