Secret Superstar is a Hindi film that has recently released. It is a film about the trials and tribulations of a young girl breaking free from the constraint of traditional authority and making her mark as an artist. Here is a review and analysis of the film.
Aishwarya Chowdhary | The New Leam
The film Secret Superstar, directed by Advait Chandan, tells a not so unusual story of the dreamlike success of a teenage girl despite her difficult circumstances.
We have seen the similar story-line in films many-a-times before, but what sets apart the Secret Superstar is the way in which this story is told. The story-line is quite predictable and you know what is going to happen the very next minute but the way the film is narrated and is direceted keeps one interested throughout the film. The effortless and impeccable performance by actors Zaira Wasim, Meher Vij , Raj Arjun, Tirth Sharma make the film a delightful watch. The performances of these actors certainly over shadow that of Aamir Khan.
It is a story of the dreams and aspirations of a talented middle class teenage girl, Insiya Malik. She aspires to rise to fame with her singing talent. However, the reality around her is extremely confining and restrictive as she is surrounded by an abusive father who often physically abuses her mother and is not supportive of Insiya’s singing talent. She wishes to escape this someday and take her mother along. She believes that if she can somehow manage to become a renowned singer she will be able to put an end to her mother’s miseries.
The film, primarily, revolves around and feeds on a typical feature of the Indian middle class which is high aspiration and the compelling desire to make it big in life despite all odds. It is this existential quest of the middle class that the film tries to weave a story around. It is in this context that the film gives central importance to the way in which popular reality shows on Indian television captured this existential aspiration of this section of the population lending them dreams of quickly becoming successful and attaining instant fame. Today the popularity of these reality shows has been accompanied by the growing popularity of YouTube which has over the years acted as another important forum for the showcasing of talent. The protagonist of the film Insiya wishes to show her talent to the world and wants to put her Singing videos on YouTube but she is sure that her father will never approve of this.
On being suggested by Nazma, Insiya shoots her video wearing a veil and keeping her identity a secret. She creates a YouTube channel named Secret Superstar and uploads her singing videos on it. Insiya becomes an internet and media sensation in no time. The story of the film is how this success makes way for an escape for Insiya and her mother from the abusive father.
When her father decides to shift the family to Saudi Arabia she is unwilling to move so she plans a way to escape. She gets in contact with Shakti kumar(Aamir Khan), a popular contemporary singer who has become a fan of her YouTube channel and is willing to give her a chance to record a song for him.
The characters Insiya, Nazma, Guddu, Farookh, Badi Aapa and Chintan fit so well together. What appears to remain a misfit is the role of Shakti Kumar. His character adds the ‘Bollywood’ element to the film. Everything about him including his music, his clothes and his attitude make one detest him. However despite the fact that he is so intolerable he continues to make us laugh. He adds a pinch humor to the narration.
The film seems to have to faces, one is Insiya’s struggle which involves Nazma (Insiya’s mother), Farookh (Insiya’s father), Guddu, Chintan and this seems so real and so saddening. The other one is Insiya’s success which involves characters like Shakti kumar; the happy yet too dreamy side. Her success story sometimes seems too dreamy to be true that makes one wonder “Is this really possible?”. The success seems to come to Insiya too early and too easy and therefore seem to be too dreamy. However, the story of her struggle and her mother’s struggles grounds the narration into reality. A middle class mother daughter duo discussing television, reality shows, celebrities and award functions makes the characters seem so familiar.
The bond between the mother-daughter is so beautiful. Nazma offers a healthy and safe space for Insiya to communicate and share her dreams and aspirations and does her best possible to fulfil them. Insiya and her mother are often the target of physical abuse and mental torture by her abusive father. Insiya and Nazma’s relation seems to have grown stronger because of this shared suffering. Insiya and Nazma are subdued in the presence of Farookh and live their life by stealing little moments of pleasure and freedom in his absence. They often come together in living and stealing these moments of freedom and this is how their bond has grown.
However, the film touches the insights of the suffering of women caught in patriarchy and throws light on the helplessness on being caught between dilemma of breaking-through or staying-back because of their dependence on the patriarchal abuser. But in the final airport scene when Nazma, along with Insiya and Guddu, finally desserts Farookh, it leaves us with tremendous contentment and pleasure. One can not hold back to applaud when on being warned that ones she exits the airport she can not enter the airport again, Nazma says “isse acchi baat aur kya ho Sakti hai?” (What better can I ask for?)”. It shows her enthusiasm on breaking through.
Chintan is another character who supports Insiya through-out her struggle to success; from operating her YouTube account to arranging everything with Shakti Kumar, he does everything possible to make things work-out for Insiya. Chintan’s character is so lovable and so is his bond with Insiya. What makes the bond even beautiful is that it is forged beyond the boundaries of religion, and this fact does seem to matter to anyone.
Insiya herself is a strong and a wise character and full of zeal, courage, aspirations and emotions. She has emense love for her mother and emense hatred for her father. She sometimes comes out to be inconsiderate of other’s feelings (Chintan and Guddu) but this makes her character even truer of a typical teenager.
The film overall is a complete experience as it has a strong narration, brilliant performances by the actors and has a balance of humorous and eye-wetting moments. However, the film fails to do justice in terms of music. Although the songs are rightly places and perfectly blend and set the mood of the narration for the audience, however, they fall short of satisfying the required standard of a music-centered film.
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