Banner: Yash Raj Films
Producer: Maneesh Sharma
Director: Siddharth P Malhotra
Cast: Rani Mukerji, Neeraj Kabi, Sachin Pilgaonkar, Supriya Pilgaonkar, Harsh Mayar, Shiv Subrahmanyam, Rohit Saraf, Sparsh Khanchandani
Writers: Anckur Chaudhry, Siddharth P Malhotra, Ambar Hadap, Ganesh Pandit
Music: Jasleen Royal
When it was announced that the once ruling queen of Bollywood, Rani Mukerji, would make her so-called comeback to the big screen with a woman-centric film from her home production Yash Raj Films, expectations were high. Then came the trailer, which gave the audience hope that the actress, who last gave us a film like Mardaani, would prove her prowess once again. Sadly, Siddharth P Malhotra’s directorial venture, Hichki, does not manage to accomplish that.
The emotions, the feel and the message were all there in the script to make this film a pleasant watch but there are major hiccups (pun intended!) that let you down as you watch the execution on screen.
The story begins with Naina Mathur (Rani Mukerji) acquainting us with Tourette Syndrome, a neurological disorder that results in her experiencing motor tics. Trying to fulfill her dream of being a teacher, Naina keeps applying to schools one after the other, only to be rejected due to her condition. She finally gets a chance at her old school, St. Notker’s High School, where she is hired to teach a class of 14 students hailing from impoverished backgrounds.
From a completely different world as against privileged, straight-A students, the 14 government school transfers try to torture Naina with their rebellion. Holding her own ground and not willing to give up, she pushes back until they realise her genuine feelings for them. How Naina changes the course of these students’ lives, whether she succeeds in giving them the right education with her innovative methods, and whether she manages to change the perception of people towards them is what forms the crux of the film.
One good thing about Hichki is the way the central character, who has a physical disability, has been handled. The makers have not only treated the character’s disability with sensitivity, they have not shown her as a victim. Instead, Mukerji’s character comes across as sassy and this is commendable. The dialogue is well-written for the most part, with Rani Mukerji giving it back to her detractors with lines like, ‘My speech has a defect, not my intellect’ and ‘There are no bad students, only bad teachers’. Beyond these, there are lines that are too cliched.
The biggest flaw in an otherwise finely executed movie is its predictability. The script, though not novel, has been decently written, getting the emotion right. The main reason the central character has Tourette Syndrome is to show what it is like to have this condition from the character’s perspective. But the film fails to do that. While the disorder and the way the film has treated it evoke inspiration at times, for most of the film, it doesn’t really make a difference to the narrative.
The story flows quickly but establishes the plot and sub-plots well. Naina’s unusual teaching tactics, love for her students and personal stake in their success does remind one of other stories like Dead Poets Society, Taare Zameen Par, Yash Raj Films’ Mohabbatein, Chak De! India, and many other movies where the underdog triumphs.
Hichki’s strong screenplay gives you an impression of being unique but the idealism in the execution fails the film. Clichés have been revived and used to the extent of them being monotonous, which makes you wonder whether this film would have done much better a decade or two ago.
Jasleen Royal has given the music for the film and while none of the songs have become chartbusters, or for that matter even acknowledged, the tracks blend perfectly with the storyline, enhancing the plot of the film.
The story of Hichki, adapted from the life of Brad Cohen and his book Front Of The Class: How Tourette Syndrome Made Me The Teacher I Never Had, is inspiring on paper but the lack of novelty in the treatment of its execution robs it of this effect on screen, thanks to the overdramatic shots and run-of-the-mill, Hindi movie climax.
Performance-wise, Rani Mukerji proves that she is still a stellar actress with her strong performance. With her sassy remarks, genuine enthusiasm and easy-breezy smile, she steals the thunder in every scene. Neeraj Kabi as the textbook elitist is good. Playing Mukerji’s parents, Sachin and Supriya Pilgaonkar, are amazing. Shiv Subrahmanyam is okay. Harsh Mayar is great. Rohit Saraf is decent. Sparsh Khanchandani is good. The other supporting actors, especially the kids of who play the students, are decent.
Verdict: Despite being made by the No 1 production house in our country, the film was neither marketed nor promoted well, thus there was no awareness of the movie, which resulted in a weak opening. Flop!