Hindi Medium is as topical a film can get about our education system. It exposes many fault lines of the system and an upper middle class consuming education as a commodity that is no better than the car they own or the scotch they drink. But good ideas also need a proper cinematic interpretation or else they can make for a wasted opportunity. This is where director Saket Chaudhary doesn’t quite succeed.
Raj Batra (Irrfan Khan) is the owner of Batra stores in Chandini Chowk in Delhi that sells Manish Malhotra and Sabyasachi rip offs to wannabes. While Raj is at peace with his lack of command over the English language and his grounded ‘desi’ ways, his wife Meeta (Saba Qamar) has her complexes and is hell bent on educating their daughter in an upmarket English medium school. The Batras are a moneyed, BMW driving family that could easily afford the poshest private school for their child but they lack class. If Raj cannot spell the word swimming, Meeta pronounces ‘elite’ as ‘elaat’! Once the Batra couple embarks on ‘mission English school’, their woes – and our fun – begin. So far so good.
Unfortunately, the well begun journey that whets your appetite for what is to follow is soon marred by cliches of the most hackneyed kind by writers Zeenat Lakhani and Saket Chaudhary. Simplistic bi-polar representations of the worlds of Chandini Chowk v/s Vasant Vihar and the rich v/s poor bring down what could, in fact, have been an outstanding film with different layers. In fact, the whole stereotypical ‘the rich are bad’ while ‘the poor are noble’ approach of the makers deprive the film of any nuances whatsoever. Occasionally, the film does have a worthy point to make like when the Batras try to slum it out in order to get admission in an English school via the quota for poor children. It is not easy to lead a poor man’s life and this is superbly summarized by Deepak Dobriyal’s good Samaritan character when he says, “Hum Khandaani Gareeb Hain, Pichli Saat Pushton Se.” Meaning that we are traditionally poor for seven generations. The film needed many more such moments.
The characters, too, are little more than cardboard cut outs. Nevertheless, some fine actors do manage to get around their sketchily written characterizations and deliver good performances. On this level, there is no complaint from Deepak Dobriyal, Swati Das, Tillotama Shome or Saba Qamar. Or of course, the the film’s big plus point – Irrfan Khan. His superb display of his wry brand of humor wonderfully mocks the absurdity of society and parents’ obsessions with English medium private school education and keeps the film on a somewhat watchable level.
On the technical side, A Sreekar Prasad’s editing shows fine sense of timing in his deft cutting to effectively bring out the humorous moments in the film. In particular, his judicious use of pauses and silences to add humor to a scene work nicely. However, Sachin-Jigar’s music falls in strictly no man’s land being neither here or here, while cinematographer Laxman Utekar’s work is disappointingly routine.
A relevant theme, some good performances, the occasional perceptive or witty dialogue and the odd funny moment aside, Hindi Medium fails to realize its undoubtedly noble intentions.
Hindi, Comedy, Drama, Color