SECRET SUPERSTAR (2017)

As I sat through Secret Superstar, I couldn’t help but feel a gamut of emotions ranging from comedy, morose, and a fighting spirit but more than anything a feeling of warmth that I believe lies at the core of this film. Secret Superstar is in no way anything that we haven’t seen before. There can be just as many underdog stories and variations to it and getting my staple of movies from an industry that churns out the largest number of films in the world every year, there is no chance that any theme or angle to such a contained genre could have been left untouched. However, that fact in no way comes in the way of this film turning out to be a resplendent and utterly heart-warming affair.

Insia (Zaira Wasim) dreams of becoming a singer and being at the top of the world. However, her dreams of making it big are systematically crushed by the Hitler-esc decisions of a father who is not only abusive to her mother but also has one of the worst mindset towards girls and women imaginable. However Insia constantly finds solace in her mother who not only supports her and adds colors to her dreams but is also instrumental in helping Insia get some room to breathe in a world that is fast closing in the walls on her. Life takes a turn for Insia and her mother when she uploads a song on YouTube and it is lapped up by audiences and musicians alike and she is contacted by the obnoxious Shakti Kumaarr (Aamir Khan), a musician of disrepute but a musician never the less.

There are two facets to this film. The first being Insia’s struggle in realizing her dreams and the second being that of her mother finally mustering up the courage to break her shackles resulting in her daughter also getting the kind of freedom that she needed to make it big in the movie industry. Both the facets of the film work wonderfully well. The first half of the film sets up the camaraderie between the mother and the daughter, shows us the pathetic condition of their lives under their father and also sets up the stardom of Insia which would set her on collision course with Shakti Kumaarr. The second half of the film shows us Insia’s struggle for achieving her dreams under Shakti and also how her mother becomes instrumental in her walk up the steps of stardom.

This is a film that is what it is because of its performances. Within minutes of you starting off with the film, the characters will take over you. You will fall in love with Insia and her mother from the moment they appear on screen. You will be tickled by the boy called Chintan who is hopelessly in love with Insia but is unable to profess his love to her. You will hate Insia’s father and be shocked at the brutality that he mets out to his wife. All of it appears real because of the manner the characters are acted out by the ensemble cast.

If you loved Zaira Wasim’s act in Dangal, you will be blown away by her performance here. She turns in such a nuanced and bravura performance that it gives a feeling that she is a seasoned actress who might have 100 films under her belt. Be it the wonder in her eyes, the quirky humor that she shares with her mother, the angst that she displays for her father and above all the passion that she shows for her singing. It’s all so real that you will be totally hooked by her act. The way she plays the guitar and the manner in which she sings reeks of realism. I haven’t seen such authenticity in the act of anyone portraying a singer in recent times.

Meher Vij, the lady who played Munni’s mom in Bajrangi Bhaijaan is brilliant here. She compliments Zaira scene for scene and they share such a gullible and believable chemistry that you will take them for the mother-daughter Jodi that they are playing. Kudos has to be given to the casting director for the fact that Zaira and Meher actually look quite alike and gives you a feeling that they could just be the mother and daughter they are portraying.

Aamir Khan is superb as ever. The film lights up like a bulb every time he makes an appearance. In his brief essay, the kind of comedy that he is able to extracts is wonderful. The director does well to subtly reference certain elements of the comedy that could have very easily been laid out on the face. Aamir plays second fiddle to Zaira and lets her be the hero at all times. This really helps the film and also elevates the likeness of his character. It would be criminal not to mention Tirth Sharma who plays Chintan Parekh, the love-struck friend of Insia. He not only helps her but also helps her to see how special she is. His quirky mannerism and his Oh, so cute! the rendition of his feelings for Zaira is bound to put a smile or two on your faces.

Secret Superstar also boasts of some terrific music. There isn’t a single bad song in the whole film and it’s the kind of album that you can hear and repeat for years. It is also a fact that the manner in which the songs are picturized in the film will add fond memories to the already beautiful melodies and make them even more popular.

Overall, Secret Superstar is a heart-touching and relevant film for this generation. While many will find a voice in the underdog story of Insia, I wish that there are also those who are able to relate to the character of her mother and atleast think about letting their children live their dreams. I know it’s highly improbable but there is no harm in dreaming right?

Rating: 4/5 (4 out of 5 Stars)

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