Many movies have been released this year; small budget to blazing blockbusters like Bahubali. But some movies affect me so much that I need to share my thoughts. I would give full marks to Saket Chaudhary’s Hindi Medium for the sheer attempt to expose this cancer in our society. Hindi Medium made me nostalgic as well as made me sit up and realise that the satire that made me cry, laugh, and also introspect about our role in basic education. Education per se is screwed up in our metros. We Indians are suffering from a colossal colonial hangover and the saying “Angrez chale gaye lekin angrezi cchod gaye” is very true.
When I got married at the age of 19, I had not completed my degree. When I started going to school, admission was as simple as just filling the form and paying the nominal fee even in an English Missionary School. But fast forward the clock to 1983, when I heard that the two best schools in the city avoided giving seats to children of business families and those parents who were not graduates. And I live in a small city mind you and not a metro. I didn’t have kids yet but this news actually propelled me to pursue my degree education. I studied in a missionary school, while my parents were refugees from Pakistan. My dad used to call me Anglo-Indian as I always spoke in English. Mita the protagonist in the movie declares that,”English is not just a language, it is a class!”
Most films these days are superficial and melodramatic with larger than life characters. But, Hindi Medium deals with real life situation of class conflict in school admissions while being hilarious too. The film actually made me think on the shallowness in society and how screwed up we all our in our own woven webs. The film unmistakably mocks the present-day society with its follies and foibles on equality and privileges.
Irrfan Khan plays the role of Raj, and his wife Mita played by Saba Qamar, a nouveau riche couple whose main goal in life is to seek admission for their daughter Pia in one of the elite Delhi schools. Raj, a Punjabi businessman from Chandni Chowk, had been educated in a government school and had no class even though he had enough money to zip around in a BMW.
Mita the wife (Saba Qamar) has done her schooling from a local English medium school. However, she wants her daughter to study in one of Delhi’s elitist schools. She wants to be one of the jet setters. She nags her husband to move to a richer neighborhood and change their style of living. They hire the services of a consultant and this role was played by Tillotama Shome with great panache. I was in splits watching her. As part of the parents’ grooming, the consultant here asks them to learn by rote a few keywords to impress the school principal who would be interviewing them. The consultant quizzed them with far out questions like how would they teach their child about poverty. Both of them are zapped at first, but Raj idly replies, “Why do we need to teach poverty, just look around.” The blasé consultant perseveres that they simply answer by saying “caring is sharing” with a wry smile. However despite hiring a yuppie consultant their daughter doesn’t get admission in four of the top five schools .The indifference of the consultant and the over-zealousness of the parents, according to me, evoke the most troubling facet of the times we live in. Keeping up with the Joneses has become a way of life and competition is the name. South Delhi Punjabi aunties are known for their snootiness and your address symbolize whether you belong to HS( High Society) or LS (Low society)
Raj tries many dubious ways to procure admission but fails and as a last ditch effort he tries to get his kid admitted to the remaining one school through gareeb quota by immoral means. Privilege is further accentuated when Raj and his wife shift to a shanty in a slum to get the admission for their daughter under the poor quota in the posh Delhi Grammar School. Truly hilarious was the mock photo shoot of a Holiday in Europe to be posted on Facebook while they are in the slums.To authenticate the gareeb tag they had to really move into a poor neighbourhood for a month to validate their admission status or they would land in jail for fraud if they were caught. While living in a dengue and rat infested they realize they have got their priorities all wrong. Deepak Dobriyal, who plays a factory worker with a heart of gold, accentuates the difference between the rich and the working poor. Raj and Mita are shockedwhen they come to know that Deepak’s son too has applied for the same school under the “gareeb” as their daughter.Circumstances change and Raj and his wife realise that Deepak’s son too has applied for the same school under the “poor quota” as their daughter.
The film in a way reestablishes the fact that virtues like honesty, sympathy and integrity are for the oppressed while the rich are hardnosed and oppressive. The people dwelling in the slums have been depicted as content even in their hardships.
Social transformation from nouveau riche to slum-dwellers, and Raj and Mita’s remorse and guilt after realising that they snatched the right of a poor child is very relevant today. When they realize the phoniness of the so called elite English medium school they decide to admit their child in a government school. Happy ending, yes! But how many of us would do the same. That is a point to wonder!
Performance wise, Hindi Medium is a winner. Irrfan, usually seen as a serious, mature actor, shows that he can do a frivolous role too with aplomb. His comic timing as the tailor’s-assistant-turned-tycoon keeps you in splits. Saba Qamar is the best Pakistani talent so far, and she excels as the Chandni Chowk girl with social climbing aspirations.
Like most Bollywood films, attimesHindi Medium may seem over-dramatic times but the message hits home, and the film is a winner because of the performances and the humor. Hindi Medium tells an important story about the corruption in private schools, because of which thousands of kids are deprived of a chance at good education; it also highlights the deplorable conditions of government schools. It is a wakeup call to all affluent citizens of India who still have some empathy tucked away deep within their branded hearts.