Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Worth Watching: Like Stars on Earth (2007)

Title: Like Stars on Earth
Director: Aamir Khan
Language: Hindi
Rating: PG

Like Stars on Earth poster

People who are markedly different are sometimes celebrated for the gifts they bring to the world. But most of the time, other people seem determined to crush them.

There's a Japanese proverb: "The nail that sticks out gets hammered down." Fit in, fall in line, and life will be easier for you; you'll find no understanding or accommodation from the rest of us.

Like Stars on Earth is set in a middle-class suburb in India and centers on Ishaan Awasthi (Darsheel Safary), a young boy who makes basic mistakes in math and writing, follows his drifting attention wherever it takes him, and also has abundant talent in art.

Darsheel Safary as Ishaan Awasthi in Like Stars on Earth

The movie has some colorful animated sequences, and one of them shows us his reasoning as he writes down 3 as the answer to 9 times 3 on an exam. Spaceships are involved.

His parents are distraught, though his mother is more sympathetic to him than his father, who sees his behavior simply in terms of disobedience. He has an older brother, also sympathetic to him, who's the model son: an excellent student, an athlete, the pride of the family. Ishaan, on the other hand, can't seem to get anything right, and no one understands him and why he has so much trouble at school.

Eventually he's sent to a different school, with stricter discipline, that's meant to straighten him out. There he lapses into depression, until a substitute art teacher (played by the movie's director, Aamir Khan) notices his plight and figures out how to reach him.

Ram Shankar Nikumbh, played by Aamir Khan, looks at some of Ishaan's artwork in Like Stars on Earth

Some scenes are overly long, and there are times when you can feel the filmmakers shamelessly grabbing onto your heartstrings and refusing to let go. I still think it's a movie worth watching, and Darsheel Safary is an excellent (and adorable) young actor who inhabits the role of Ishaan. The movie becomes a celebration of different kinds of human expression, with a focus on the voice and art of a boy who has dyslexia. The hope is that people will pay sincere attention to and understand those who are often lazily dismissed as troublemakers, idiots, and freaks.

*All images link back to their sources (Wikipedia, Flixster Community, and High Effective Habits).